01STOCK_JANESVILLE_SCHOOLDISTRICT

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JANESVILLE

It’s one of those riddles taxpayers are loath to consider.

If the assessed value of my home goes up 30%, will my school taxes go up 30%?

The math sees to make sense, but the reasoning is faulty, Janesville School District Finance Director Daniel McCrea told the school board Tuesday.

He made the statement during a presentation of the tentative budget for the 2019-20 school year.

The budget calls for total spending of $121.45 million, down from $121.55 million last year. Of that, $35.7 million will be covered by local property taxes. That’s down from $37.52 million last year, a decrease of 4.85%.

For taxpayers, that translates to an estimated tax of $8.10 per $1,000 of property value, down from last year’s $8.51, a decrease of 4.82%.

But the city of Janesville’s revaluation process has some people concerned.

McCrea explained it this way: Everyone is in the same pool and it’s half filled with water. When the water rises, all the boats rise. That’s the value of housing going up. But the amount of tax money needed for schools remains fixed at $35.7 million, and that amount will be spread across a deeper pool.

In the budget documents that came with the agenda, McCrea explained it this way: “... the entire community experienced a revaluation, and the district levy is spread across the entire community.”

The documents also explain that the district levy is calculated using equalized value, not individual parcel value.

School districts, counties and vocational schools often collect property taxes from several municipalities with different assessors and different assessment schedules. Equalized valuation strives to impose one consistent standard in estimating the taxable value of each municipality. Then levies from school districts, counties and other overlying districts can be fairly apportioned to each municipality.

The school district budget will not be finalized until October, when the district gets its last round of money from the state.

New items in the 2019-20 budget include:

  • The addition of a 10th-grade health class. The school district meets the state requirement for health classes, but high school staff felt the addition was needed, said Craig High School Principal Alison Bjoin.

Bjoin pointed to adverse childhood experience scores. Rock County’s score is one of the highest in the state. Adverse childhood experiences, such as having a parent in jail or witnessing domestic violence, can lead to mental health problems and other issues as kids get older.

In addition, the district’s traditional health class is taught in eighth grade, and some subjects, such as human reproduction, might be better taught at an older age, she said.

  • An estimated $133,000 for bathrooms at Rock University High School. The high school, which is housed in Blackhawk Technical College, has expanded to about 70 students. Blackhawk would like to place it in a different part of the building with more space, and is remodeling to accommodate the Rock University High School’s needs.

The school district is paying for the bathrooms. At the meeting, Superintendent Steven Pophal stressed that the district doesn’t pay Blackhawk Technical College rent, and the addition of bathrooms was a fair way to share costs.

  • The elimination of course fees and a new fund for athletic uniforms.

Fees used to be charged for courses where students needed special material or tools. Pophal said it had come to their attention that students were not taking classes because of the fees, and they wanted to change that.

A fund to pay for uniforms was a regular part of the budget until all of the cutbacks after Act 10. As a result, parents had to pick up those costs.

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