Janesville school aid higher than expected
The general aid amount announced by the state Department of Public Instruction on Thursday is nearly $68.8 million.
The school board approved the budget Tuesday without knowing the precise amount of state aid. The budget used an estimate that, it turns out, was $150,006 less than the actual aid amount.
The overage might seem like a pittance in an operational budget of $144 million, but district CFO Keith Pennington said it’s much better than receiving less than expected.
Pennington said it’s up to the school the board to decide what it wants to do with the money.
School board member Tim Cullen indicated at this week’s meeting he’d like to see any aid overage go to reducing the tax levy, but the eight other board members did not weigh in on that question.
One possible use is to set part of the amount aside to hire an additional teacher or two, if needed.
The district kept the number of teachers low this year because of fears that enrollment would drop. As a result, several elementary classrooms around the district are at or near the maximum number of students allowed by board policy.
Superintendent Karen Schulte has said she is very concerned about those classrooms, because if enrollment increases, she might have to ask the board to hire another teacher.
The cost of one teacher’s pay and benefits is estimated to be about $58,000, so the $150,006 could pay for at least two teachers.
The extra money is not the only source of money for hiring more teachers, however. The district’s fund balance is set aside for just that kind of emergency.
If the entire $150,006 is applied to the tax levy, the levy would drop to $34.77 million, making for an increase of 1.66 percent over last year’s levy, not the 2.09 percent as originally estimated.
State tax levy credits would reduce school taxes even further.
General aid and other forms of state aid account for about 65 percent of school district revenue. The $68.8 million in general aid is $1.27 million more than the district received last year.
That increase was the largest dollar increase for any district in the state. A major factor in the increase was the fact that Janesville started 4-year-old kindergarten last year. The added enrollment of some 500 part-time students went into the state aid formula, boosting Janesville’s aid allocation.