School board approves $28M budget

Property tax rate drops 4.5%

The Shawano School Board signed off on its 2017-18 budget Monday, complete with a tax cut for property owners.

A $28.36 million budget was approved, along with a 4.5 percent drop in school property taxes. Property owners paid $10.18 per $1,000 of equalized value last year, while the tax rate for this year is $9.71.

Property values across the district increased 3 percent to $33.5 million, allowing the district to cut the tax rate. The city of Shawano’s equalized value dropped by 1.5 percent, said Louise Fischer, school district business manager. But she said that drop was countered by increased values from the towns of Belle Plaine, Richmond, Wescott, Waukechon and Washington.

Property taxes account for 32 percent of the district’s total budget. The total tax levy is $12.4 million.

The tax rate might have dropped even more if the district were still receiving high poverty aid, which is given to districts showing they have more than half of their enrolled students in the free/reduced lunch program. Fischer said the $166,000 in aid the district could have received impacted the tax rate by 13 cents, which means property owners would have only paid $9.58 per $1,000 of equalized value.

“That’s something that we’re trying to resolve, getting people to file for free and reduced lunch,” Fischer said. “We believe that we’re a district that has more than 50 percent qualifying for free and reduced lunch.”

District enrollment dropped 29 students from the 2016 count, Fischer said, but the three-year average shows the district enrollment is up by one student from 2014.

“If our student count doesn’t stay up, that affects our revenue limit,” she said.

Fischer believes the district could potentially see the tax rate drop again in 2018, as the state budget passed in September covers a two-year period. However, things could change if the state does not keep up its higher amounts of equalized aid to public schools, she said.

“The state budget was very friendly to schools, with a bigger pot of money for equalized aid,” Fischer said. “In the next state budget, that pot of aid could go out the window, and our mill rate could go shooting through the roof. It won’t be anything through our fault; it’ll just be the amount of money the state gives us.

Fischer noted that the budget approved has a deficit of $47,601. She explained that the board’s finance committee recommended going ahead with a deficit budget because it was too far into the year to ask schools to make cuts now.

Much of the budget had been estimates until the state passed its budget in September, several months later than normal.