Janesville59.9°

Janesville school aid from state will increase

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FRANK J. SCHULTZ
June 30, 2012
— The state will send more money to the Janesville School District over the course of the coming school year.

That’s good news, but it’s difficult to say how good, said school board President Bill Sodemann, who would only confirm that state aid to the district will increase.


Administration officials could not be reached for comment Friday after the state issued its annual estimate of general school aids.


The aid estimate was highly anticipated. Janesville school officials have avoided predictions about the 2012-13 budget for months, saying they wanted to wait until the state issues its estimate, which by law must be issued by July 1.


Janesville school officials estimated last fall they would face a budget deficit of $8 million to $10 million. That gap does not take into account any increase in property taxes, something the school board must decide, or changes in other revenue sources.


State aid is the biggest single source of school district revenue. Local property taxes are the next biggest source.


The district has an operating budget of about $115 million. It received $62.63 million in general aid for the past year. The estimate for the coming year is $64.98 million. That’s an increase of about $2.35 million, or 3.75 percent.


Districts such as Milton got even bigger percentage increases, while a number of local districts, including Orfordville Parkview and most districts in Walworth County, will see reductions.


Property taxes can be raised each year, but only up to an amount allowed under state law. The state has not yet issued its estimate of how much each district’s maximum tax can be, said Patrick Gasper, spokesman for the Department of Public Instruction.


Overall, the state anticipates giving out $4.29 billion in general aid in the coming year, up from $4.26 billion last year.


Nearly all districts in the state saw reductions in state aid last year.


A majority of school districts—267 of them—will see declines in aid in 2012-13, while 155 will see increases.


Three competing factors drive changes in state aid, Gasper said. Enrollment increases tend to push aid up. Overall increases in property values push aid down. The third factor is how much districts spent in the previous year. The more spending, the more aid.


Sodemann said he doesn’t have enough information to comment on the district’s budget gap.


“I think we’re heading downward for our deficit, but how much more, I don’t want to guess,” Sodemann said.


Balancing the school district’s budget is likely to be on the school board’s agenda in the weeks ahead.


The school board isn’t scheduled to meet until July 10. Board member Karl Dommershausen asked at the board’s meeting Tuesday whether a preliminary budget estimate would be ready for the next meeting.


“Probably not to the degree you’re looking for,” responded district chief financial officer Keith Pennington.


The precise aid amount and the district’s enrollment won’t be known until this fall.


School boards are not required to set their tax levies until the end of October, four months into their fiscal years.



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