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Proposed school cuts could save Janesville homeowners $31

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FRANK J. SCHULTZ
August 9, 2008
— The Janesville School Board asked for budget cuts that would help taxpayers during difficult economic times. The results:

-- An estimated tax savings of about $15 on the average home if the board cuts $500,000 from this year’s budget.


-- A savings of about $31 if the board cuts $1 million from the $111 million operational budget.


That adds up to less than a tank of gas at current prices.


Superintendent Tom Evert’s list of cuts goes before the board when it meets Tuesday night.


The cuts themselves could mean fewer supplies for classrooms or custodians or administrators. They might mean fewer consultants or travel or training opportunities for staff.


Printing costs, auditing services or computer-support services could be cut. Middle schools might not get new buzzer/door access systems. Software might not be upgraded.


Evert suggested cuts in broad categories such as maintenance projects, supplies and replacements of furniture, textbooks and equipment.


Evert said if the board approved any of the cuts, the administration would then pinpoint which parts of those budgets would not be funded.


Evert described the cuts as “a gradual erosion of levels of services, materials and supplies. And that’s especially true in maintenance, where we’re recommending a pretty hefty reduction.”


The $2.49 million budget for maintenance projects would be cut by $281,000, or about 11 percent.


“We don’t have the specifics, but we certainly would want to discuss this with the board,” Evert said.


The biggest single cut would be $300,000 from the $15.67 million set aside to pay health claims under the district’s self-funded health insurance.


Evert said the district has had two consecutive years of health claims that were lower than expected, so this cut is an acceptable risk, although he’d prefer the higher amount were available.


If there’s not enough money at the end of the year for any needed expense, the district’s fallback is to dip into the fund balance, Evert said.


Evert also suggested that the board could use as much as $491,000 from the fund balance to pay all or part of the startup costs for the district’s new 4-year-old kindergarten program.


Startup costs are a one-time expense, which is an allowable use of fund balance under a new board policy.


The cuts would reduce the property tax levy. The proposed budget called for an 8.96 percent increase in the levy, to $36.2 million.


A $500,000 cut would mean a 7.46 percent increase in the levy.


A $1 million cut means a 5.97 percent levy increase.


But holding down this year’s levy would mean that the 2009-10 levy would increase at a greater rate.


The 2009-10 levy would go up an estimated 4.68 percent under current projections but 7.64 percent if $1 million were cut from this year’s budget.


The school taxes on the average home—fair-market-valued at $140,875—would be $947.40 under the proposed budget, $931.87 if $500,000 were cut, or $916.33 if $1 million were cut.


Evert acknowledged that the savings are an early estimate, and final tax bills could vary for a variety of reasons.



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