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Turner district eyes 20 percent tax hike

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ANN MARIE AMES
August 4, 2009
— Property values in the Turner School District could be poised to drop for the first time in more than a decade.

Keep in mind the word "could."


The district won't know until October what local equalized property values will be, Business Administrator Brad Boll said.


District officials anticipate the loss of jobs in the stateline area, including an 18 percent unemployment rate in the city of Beloit, could hurt property values in the district that includes Beloit, La Prairie and Turtle townships and part of the city of Beloit.


So the district is working with a worst-case scenario: a 10 percent reduction in equalized property values. If that happens, the tax rate would jump 20 percent to meet the levy the school board set last week.


The board approved a $5.03 million levy to for a planned $13.68 million operating budget.


"In a perfect world," the equalized value would increase 1 percent or so, Boll said. According to the district's annual report, property tax values have increased every year since 1991.


The biggest increase was 13.8 percent in the 1996-97 school year. The smallest was 1.54 percent last year.


The district could have levied even more money from taxpayers, Boll said.


The district's state-imposed revenue cap continues to grow.


"Our revenue limit is growing less than it has in the past, but it is growing," Boll said.


The district made a conscious decision to increase the levy $200,000 less than it could have, Boll said.


That's going to save taxpayers about 50 cents per $1,000, he said.


While some taxpayers might say, "that's not enough," district officials are caught between taxpayers and employees, Boll said.


The majority of the operating budget increase is for salaries and benefits, he said.


The district recently settled with the teachers union on contracts that include a 3.8 percent total package increase in the 2009-10 school year and a 3.9 percent total package increase in the 2010-11 school year.


Support staff and administration will see a 3.5 percent increase in the 2009-10 school year, Boll said.


Teachers expressed frustration that the district chose to increase the levy less than possible, he said. And the district isn't in a position to cut staff without "dramatically" increasing class sizes, Boll said.


"We're being responsible stewards of our programs and balancing those two interests," Boll said.


TAXING TERMS

Over the next few months, local governments will be working on budgets for the coming year.


Here are some vocabulary words from the Wisconsin Department of Revenue Web site and spokesperson Jessica Iverson to help as you watch for your community's budget:


Assessed value: The dollar amount an assessor assigns to taxable property to determine how much property tax will be paid by each property owner. The value assures taxing fairness for property owners within a municipality.
Equalized value: Because assessors in different taxing districts value property at different percentages of market value, the Department of Revenue converts the assessed values to a uniform level called equalized value.

This number helps ensure taxpayers are treated equally between municipalities. Taxing jurisdictions such as counties and school districts, whose taxpayers live in different municipalities, use equalized value.


For example, the Milton School District teaches kids who live in the city of Milton and kids who live in the city of Janesville. Equalized valuation assures that homeowners in both cities pay their equal share of school taxes.


The assessed value is important for maintaining equity among individual taxpayers within the municipality while the equalized value maintains equity between municipalities and counties.


To learn more: Visit www.revenue.wi.us. Click on the "publications" tab. Then click on the link for "property tax" and "guide for property owners." The guide was updated in March.
2009-10 Turner Budget

The Turner School Board has come forward with a "worst-case scenario" for the budget, in which residents' tax rates would increase 20 percent.


District officials won't be able to finalize numbers until October, Business Administrator Brad Boll said.


For the first time, the district didn't increase the levy as much as allowed by the state. Officials levied $200,000 less than they could have, Boll said.


Operating budget


This year $13.68 million


Last year $13.19 million


Increase 4.93 percent


Tax levy


This year $5.03 million


Last year $4.66 million


Increase 8.06 percent


Tax rate


(Per $1,000 of equalized valuation)


This year $11.87


Last year $9.89


Increase 20.02 percent


Note: Percent changes calculated on whole numbers.



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