KUSD tax levy
Tonight, the Kenosha Unified School District (KUSD) 2012-13 proposed budget was approved at the district’s annual meeting, which was held at Indian Trail High School. Tina Schmitz, the chief financial officer, gave the very understandable presentation, which showed that the total tax levy for the next fiscal year would be a 4.38% decrease from last year.
The mill rate would go up eight cents to $11.10 per $1,000. The property tax on a $200,000 house would go up slightly to $2,220. The current mill rate is calculated on equalized valuations decreasing by approximately 5% on average. A lower equalized valuation can increase the district’s mill rate. The preliminary budget includes taking advantage of levying to the maximum by law. The final equalized valuations and Department of Public Instruction (DPI) revenue limit information will be released in October. At that time, the district will update the tax levy and mill rate.
Schmitz said that the budget is being aligned with the district’s transformation plan to improve student achievement, expand collaborative partnerships with families, community, and industry, and secure resources to support learning. For more information on the district’s transformation plan, click here: Transformation Plan.
The levy will support a proposed operating budget of $248.7 million, a decrease of $11.9 million. The total budget for next year, including all funds, is $279.9 million, a decrease of $17.2 million.
“Maintaining fiscal responsibility to the district’s stakeholders continues to be at the top of our priorities,” Schmitz said. The district’s budget plan includes restoring the fund balance with the goal of meeting board policy to be at a minimum of 15% of budgeted expenses, representing approximately 45 days of operations. Next year’s budget includes adding almost $4 million back to the fund balance, which will bring the percentage to 8.4% of budgeted expenses.
Initial enrollment projections indicate a decrease of 100 students from last year, bringing the total to 22,878 students in the district. KUSD is the third largest school district in the state. The budgeted revenue and expenses for next year will be adjusted according to the third Friday enrollment counts.
Per student revenue is going up from last year. This year, the state biennial budget includes an increase of $50 per student which equates to approximately $1.2 million. Last year, the per pupil revenue was $9,585, and this year, it is estimated to be $9,857.
One of the charts in Schmitz’s presentation showed the history of the revenue limit. The mix between general aid and total tax levy was shown over a seven-year period. While the total revenue limit this year is close in size to last year, the mix has changed. There is more general aid this year than last year, but the district has less total tax levy than the prior year (almost $7 million more in state aid, but almost $4 million less in the total levy from last year).
Budget assumptions included:
- A $50 per pupil revenue increase
- New categorical aid of $1.1 million
- General state aid increase of $6.6 million
- A $1 million decrease in Federal grants (jobs grant)
- Average 3% increase projected in fees
- A 4.38% projected decrease in the tax levy
- Salary increases per employee contracts
- A decrease in health insurance expense ($730,000 in the Wisconsin Education Association trust)
- An overall 5.2% decrease in staffing costs
- A 2.5% increase in other employee benefits
- A 4.3% decrease in operating expenses
Schmitz also presented information on the district’s Moody’s bond ratings, which are A1 with a stable outlook for long-term debt and MIG1 (the highest rating) for short-term debt. These ratings are key to lowering the district’s borrowing costs. A better rating provides more opportunity in the market and lowers the interest expense.
Then, Schmitz gave information on what’s new in KUSD education. In elementary education, collaborative classroom family structures are being used to meet the learning needs of all children. Also, world languages has expanded to K-5 levels, using the Rosetta Stone immersion process (for six different languages). The Wednesday early release has been moved to Friday, adding value to teach collaboration time. Plus, eSchool options have been expanded to elementary students.
In the secondary education arena, KUSD has established higher expectations for its students. Eighth grade algebra will be taught at all middle schools. There are increased world language opportunities. The “Tell Me More” model will be used for all middle school students. In addition is the expansion of on-line learning opportunities for students at the middle and high school level.
For high school students, there is a community service expectation for all graduating KUSD students. Also, year-long courses of study in English and math will be offered. Plus, the roll out of the common core state standards initiative is being accomplished for K-12. Safe and supportive initiatives are being advanced. The honors opportunity is being expanded to the middle school level.
New items district wide this year includes all KUSD students having student e-mail addresses, on-line enrollment and student account options, on-line payment capabilities, and an improved regional technology support plan.
After Schmitz’s presentation, a public hearing was held. Only four residents spoke, mostly thanking the school board for its efforts in expanding the Bromption School and commending the board for making tough, but creative, decisions.
The annual meeting of district electors was then held. There were three nominations for chairperson: Eric Olson, Scott Barter, and Mary Snyder. Snyder won overwhelmingly. The rules of order were approved, as well as the agenda. Attorney Gilbert Berthelsen served as the parliamentarian.
A resident asked if other motions other than the ones distributed on the agenda could be made and voted on, and Berthelsen said no. Only those items listed on the agenda could be discussed at the meeting. Lou Rugani wanted to know what the process was of adding items to the agenda, and Berthelsen advised him to get an attorney. Rugani stated that Berthelsen was his attorney, but Berthelsen disagreed with him. Jennifer Burns made a motion for the board to work with the Kenosha Education Association (KEA) to develop a handbook for all groups by May 1, 2013, but it was ruled out of order because it did not appear on the list of agenda items which were noticed to the public.
Other motions which were approved included:
- School board members continue to be paid $4,500 per year and that a limit of $60 continue to be paid per day to board members for loss of actual earnings when on school business.
- School board members be reimbursed for actual and necessary expenses incurred when traveling in the performance of their duties as a member of the school board.
- The tax levy for 2012-13 be approved at approximately $71,814,314 for the general fund, $15,760,784 for the debt service funds, and $2 million for the community service fund.
- The school board was authorized to establish a date and time between May 15 and October 31, 2013, for the district’s annual meeting.
A motion had been made to change the wording of the third motion from “approximately” to “not to exceed,” but this motion failed. Also, a motion setting the date for the next meeting to May 15 failed after Schmitz explained the reasons why that date would be “way too early.”
The meetings were attended by about 80 people. School superintendent Michele Hancock was absent from the meeting tonight due to a family emergency.