Sodemann: Janesville School Board likely to dip into fund again

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staff, Gazette
Wednesday, July 11, 2012

— The owner of an average Janesville home assessed at $112,000 would pay $34 less in property taxes to support schools next year if the school board raises taxes to the maximum.

The school board will consider that number and more as it wrangles with the 2012-2013 budget after the state supplied preliminary state aid estimates last week.

The district will receive 3.75 percent more in state aid, or $2.4 million, than last year, but the cap on how much property tax it can levy will decrease nearly 6 percent, or $1.8 million, because of state limits on overall revenue.

The school board Tuesday night approved $235,000 of spending on safety and infrastructure improvements that one school board member argued will contribute to a budget shortfall estimated at between $8 million and $10 million.

The outlays include $15,000 for tuckpointing on buildings across the district, $10,000 for site drainage at Marshall Middle School, $15,000 for playground overlay at Harrison Elementary School, $60,000 for a new parking lot at Jackson Elementary School and $135,000 for districtwide repairs to pneumatic controls.

School board member Peter Severson warned fellow board members that the spending will add to the budget deficit.

The district would receive an additional $50 per pupil from the state if it levies the maximum. That would mean the district would net about $1 million more in revenue compared to last year.

Last year, the state decreased the per-pupil allocation by about $400, said Keith Pennington, the district’s chief financial officer.

The school board stopped short of levying the maximum allowed by the state last year, but it did increase taxes by 2.5 percent. The increase meant that the owner of a property valued at $112,700 paid $22.57 more in taxes to the school district.

The board also thinned the ranks of district employees last year, eliminating the equivalent of 110 full-time positions. Overall, the board made cuts of roughly $9 million.

The board collected roughly $850,000 from the tax increase and closed the remaining gap by dipping into the fund balance, also known as Fund 10. The fund balance is the district’s rainy-day fund or checkbook.

School board President Bill Sodemann predicted that the district would dip into Fund 10 again to pay for 2012-13 operating expenses.

“What we’re talking about here is how much we’ll end up taking out of Fund 10,” he said during discussion of the pneumatic controls budget item.

Last updated: 4:58 pm Tuesday, August 27, 2013

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