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Budget's effects on schools remains murky

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FRANK J. SCHULTZ
October 24, 2007
— The votes still were echoing in the state Capitol as the Janesville School Board sat down Tuesday night to find out what it will mean for the schools, students and taxpayers.

School district officials couldn’t tell board members much about how the new state budget affects schools, but they had this to say:


-- It looks as though state aid for disabled students will rise this year, from 28 percent to 29 percent of the costs of educating those students, Business Director Doug Bunton told the board.


But Bunton hasn’t seen any figures on how much Janesville’s share of special-education aid will be.


-- Another change in the budget will mean that the drop in enrollment won’t be felt in the school budget this year, Bunton said.


The state used to cushion the effects of enrollment losses, so that districts that lose students would lose some but not all the revenue in one year. Now, none of the revenue loss from the enrollment drop will be felt until the 2008-09 budget, Bunton said.


That’s good for Janesville, where enrollment fell more than expected this fall.


-- The district begins paying off the referendum-approved bond issue of $70.8 million to improve the high schools this year. That is the biggest factor in the school property tax increase.


However, state aid will start helping pay off the bond issue in 2008-09, so the effect on next year’s property taxes—and all the years after that—will be lessened.


-- Next year’s budget contains good news for property tax payers. Bunton said after the meeting that the school levy tax credit increases in 2008-09 and equalized aid to school districts also goes up, by $76 million statewide.


Equalized aid is the biggest single source of school district funding. The larger the amount of equalized aid, the smaller the tax levy needed to reach the district’s revenue cap.


School board member Tim Cullen, a former state senator, said that people shouldn’t feel bad if they don’t understand what’s going on with the state budget because most state legislators don’t understand it, either.



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