Milton voters OK 3.4 percent hike in school district levy
MILTON Milton residents gave the nod to a 3.4 percent tax levy increase for the Milton School District.
Residents attending the district’s annual meeting Monday approved the levy hike by a vote of 28-5, pushing ahead the school district’s 2011-12 budget with a total levy of $14 million—an increase of $470,000 compared to last year’s budget.
The vote Monday was advisory. The Milton School Board will likely approve the budget Oct. 24 after the district receives complete figures on state aid, local property valuations and student enrollment.
The district has proposed a tax rate increase from $8.55 per $1,000 of assessed valuation to $9.12 per $1,000. Under the increase, school taxes for a $100,000 home would climb about $57, from $855 to $912.
The state average for school tax rates is about $9.80 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, Director of Business Services Mary Ellen Van Valin said during a presentation Monday at the annual meeting.
The proposed increase in levy and tax rate comes as the district anticipates state aid cuts of $2 million over the next year and a three percent decrease in property valuation.
Meanwhile, the district is projecting a deficit of about $155,000.
That possible deficit is far less than it could be. Last winter and earlier this year, the district cut $1.7 million in spending, the lion’s share of the cuts coming from concessions to employee benefits.
The district also has the benefit of $500,000 in remaining federal jobs funds, although that money will no longer be available next year.
Board President Rob Roy said Monday that the district has the option of dipping into district reserves to pay down its projected deficit, but he said he believes district officials can find savings elsewhere.
“I don’t want to see the board moving in the direction of trying to live off the fund balance,” said Roy. “We worked hard to get it where it is now, and I’d hate to see it diminished now because we weren’t fiscally responsible. That’s never been the history of Milton.”
The district’s reserve funds, often known as the “fund balance,” have increased about $1.8 million over the last year.
The balance grew in part because the district changed insurance carriers for teachers last year.
Roy said he expects the board will have “some belt tightening discussions” in coming months. He said he believes staff can search for grant funding to bridge the shortfall and added that he anticipates the district will see ongoing growth in student enrollments the next few years.
He said that could generate more in state aid and stem some losses in revenue.
The district estimates it will gain about 10 students in the coming year. Much of the projected increase is tied to a 4-year-old kindergarten program the district is starting this fall.
The program is expected to bring in 175 students, which the district says is equivalent this year to 34 full-time students. The district won’t get full financial credit for the extra students until 4K is in its third full year, officials have said.
The program is expected to have start-up costs of about $725,000.
MILTON SCHOOL DISTRICT BUDGET
A look at the 2011-2012 budget for Milton School District:
2011-12 $33.3 million
2010-11 $32.29 million
Increase 1 percent
2011-12 $14.09 million
2010-11 $13.62 million
Increase 3.4 percent
(Per $1,000 of assessed valuation)
Increase 6.6 percent
Note: Percent changes calculated on whole numbers.