Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

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School levies, tax rates drop
Teacher concessions key to proposed decreases

by Lisa Seiser

July 07, 2011

In March, Lake Geneva Schools administrators said teacher and staff contract concessions would result in lower taxes for district property owners.

The preliminary numbers are in and school leaders were right on target.

The tax levy and rate are proposed to decrease in both the Lake Geneva-Genoa City Union High School (Badger) District and the Lake Geneva Area (Joint 1) District. The levy is proposed to drop 3.59 percent in the Badger district and 0.01 percent in the Joint 1 district. Lake Geneva School Business Manager Warren Flitcroft called those figures "unbelievably conservative" and he expects the levy and tax rate to be even lower.

A decrease in expenditures led to a reduction in the levy and the tax rate. Those expenditure drops revolved around the teacher and staff concessions made to their contracts in March. Those concessions included a wage freeze for two years, the teachers will pay the employee portion of their retirement and a 12-percent reduction in health benefits, which means more out-of-pocket expenses for teachers.

The contract changes came on the heels of Gov. Scott Walker's budget repair bill, which required teachers and other public employees to contribute more to their pensions and health insurance and would also limit collective bargaining. Walker's reasoning for his actions were to deal with the state's $3.6 billion deficit and also later included cuts to school aid.

Flitcroft said $2.3 million was cut from the two school budgets under Walker's proposals. Flitcroft said most of those losses were made up for through the teachers' concessions.

"Everybody came together in the best interest of the kids," Flitcroft said.

Badger by the numbers

Although expenditures at Badger decreased nearly $1 million, from the 2010-11 school year, Flitcroft said no teachers or programming were cut. That's the same with Joint 1, which had expenditures drop nearly $1.3 million from the 2010-11 budget numbers.

"Basically, you are going to see the same education people expect for the kids," Flitcroft said. "There will be no changes."

Overall expenditures in the Badger district are down 4.72 percent to $22.66 million, down from $23.78 million last year and $23.09 million in 2009-10.

Badger's proposed expenditures for instruction are $500,000 less than in 2009-10 at $16.327 million. Instruction costs are $9.332 million, down from $10 million in 2010-11 and $9.6 million in 2009-10. Support service expenditures are down slightly to $5.6 million, from $5.857 last year and $5.666 the year before.

Those reductions dropped the total levy to $16.73 million, down from $17.36 million in 2010-11.

Using the same equalized value as last year, Flitcroft is estimating a tax rate of $4.23 per $1,000 of assessed value. That is a 16-cent reduction and means someone with a house in the Badger district valued at $250,000 will pay $1,057 in taxes for Badger only. A year ago, a house valued at that same amount would have paid $1,097.

However, Flitcroft doesn't anticipate the same equalized value of $3.95 billion for the district. He said the value should increase, which would result in the tax levy being spread over more property value, thus the tax rate would drop.

Joint 1 by the numbers

The end result for the Elementary School district isn't as significant when it comes to the tax rate decrease, mainly due to the loss in state aid to the district to the tune of about $700,000, compared to Badger losing only about $200,000. But, the Joint 1 expenditure decreases and drops in instruction costs are serious.

Overall expenditures in the Joint 1 District dropped 4.31 percent to $26.6 million, down from the $27.8 million last year and $30.7 million in 2009-10. The expenditures show a drop in total instruction from $22.88 million in 2010-11 to a proposed $21.61 million.

After all is said and done, the levy for Joint 1 is $15.78 million, just a few thousand dollars more than in 2010-11 and much more than the $14.58 million in 2009-10.

The small change leaves the tax rate virtually the same as last year at $6.30 per $1,000 of assessed value. That means a home valued at $250,000 would pay $1,575 to the Joint 1 district.

Just like Badger, Flitcroft used last year's equalized valuation numbers of $2.5 billion. He believes that number will be higher and will ultimately result in a lower tax rate.

Final tax rate and levy numbers won't be available until fall after the third Friday count in September and when the equalized value numbers are in. All of that is expected in October.

But, Flitcroft was pleased with the proposed figures, which he calls the "worst case scenario" when it comes to the levies and tax rates.