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Milton School Board unanimously approves tax levy increase

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NEIL W. JOHNSON
October 25, 2011
— The Milton School Board on Monday approved a 2.9 percent levy increase along with the district's 2011-12 district budget, which officials project will be in the red to the tune of $224,000.

The board unanimously approved the budget and a levy of $14.1 million along with a tax rate of $8.99 per $1,000 of equalized valuation. That tax rate marks a 5.2 percent jump from last year's rate of $8.55 per $1,000 of equalized valuation.


Under the increase, school taxes for a $100,000 home will climb $44, from $855 to $899.


The increase comes as property values in the district have fallen 2.2 percent. Meanwhile, the district saw a 10.5 percent cut in state aid, which leaves it with $2 million less in state revenues compared to last year.


Overall, the district anticipates a $1.6 million deficit, but $1.4 million of that is tied to the district buying and renovating the former Daland building. Costs for that project will be covered with district reserves.


That leaves the district with a projected $224,000 "structural deficit" that will have to be covered somehow, said Mary Ellen Van Valin, business services director.


Van Valin said the possible deficit grew from earlier projections of $155,000 partly because the district has five fewer students enrolled than it estimated earlier this year. She said sinking enrollments could continue next year, and that could fuel a continued deficit.


District officials said Monday the board could deal with the possible budget gap through cuts or by dipping into district reserves, but Superintendent Mike Garrow cautioned the board about borrowing its way out of trouble.


"We really don't do business by dipping into the fund balance every year," Garrow said.


The board faces the specter of cuts even after the district trimmed $1.7 million in spending in response to funding cuts linked to Gov. Scott Walker's austerity bill. The lion's share of those came from concessions to employee benefits.


Garrow said he's asked school-level administrators to submit lists of priorities and possible savings by January 2012. Typically, district administrators don't compile those lists until mid-February, but Garrow said he wants to start the process early.


Garrow said given the depth of cuts earlier this year, it will be difficult to find savings. He said the board could be asked to consider increasing the number of students in classrooms, and noted that staff cuts are possible.


"I don't know of a sacred cow," Garrow said.


2011-12 MILTON SCHOOL DISTRICT BUDGET
Total budget

Next year $33.1 million


This year $34.9 million


Decrease 5.1%


Tax levy

Next year $14 million


This year $13.6 million


Increase 2.9%


Tax rate

(Per $1,000 of equalized valuation)


Next year $8.99


This year $8.55


Increase/Decrease 5.2%


Note: Percent changes calculated on whole numbers.



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