01STOCK_JANESVILLE_SCHOOLDISTRICT

JANESVILLE

Taxpayers might not notice an increase in their tax bills come December, but the Janesville School District’s tax levy will climb a few notches from last year based on the budget the school board unanimously approved Tuesday.

The board approved a $40.76 million tax levy for 2019-20, an 8.6% increase over last year’s $37.52 million levy.

The main driver in the $3.2 million increase over last year, Chief Financial Officer Dan McCrea said, is that the district opted late last week to include about $4.4 million in additional debt service payments.

That’s a new plan to pay down debt that McCrea said will save the district about $500,000 in interest payments on bonds.

Eight board members in attendance approved the district’s budget—a $152.8 package that’s up about 3.2% over last year’s $148 million budget.

Meanwhile, the district held the line on its tax rate, which determines the school taxes residents pay. The board approved a tax rate of $8.48 per $1,000 of equalized property value, a nominal decrease from last year’s tax rate of $8.51 per $1,000 of equalized property value.

The budget approved Tuesday didn’t mesh with numbers published in a Gazette story Sunday, which included the district’s “preliminary” estimated tax rate of $8.10 per $1,000 of equalized valuation and a tentative tax levy of $35.7 million.

McCrea, who has been the district’s finance director for about a month, said The Gazette’s Sunday story accurately reflected the tentative levy and tax rate as of midweek last week. He said in the interim, the finance team opted to tack on more than $4 million in additional debt service payments.

McCrea said the district had been “most likely not considering” extra debt payments, but that changed late last week. The move complies with a state requirement for school districts to retire debt, he said.

The effect of those payments on the budget was outlined in an overview included in documents dated Oct. 22 and released Friday, McCrea said.

He said the new debt payment plan and other factors, including state aid totals released last week, factored into the “last-minute adjustments” to the budget.

District enrollment affects state aid, and the district’s enrollment decreased by about 170 students compared to last year, according to district records.

Property assessments in the city of Janesville are increasing an average of about 31 percent this fall, but the formula for calculating how much a given resident will pay in school district taxes next year is based on an amalgam of tax rates in various communities that are part of the district.

Higher assessments on homes won’t necessarily mean the average taxpayer will pay more school taxes, McCrea said.

Janesville residents won’t know the full impact of the city’s revaluation until the end of November or early December. McCrea said he doubts residents will see increases in school taxes.

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