Board OKs budget, but delays sought|
The Antigo school board granted preliminary approval to the 2013-14 budget Tuesday, but not before several members said they needed more time for review and others suggested it was time to stop hiding behind the “rookie” label.
In a compromise move, the board unanimously voted to publish the budget, which calls for a 10 percent increase in the tax levy, but agreed to hold another work session to review the spending plan again before final approval is required in October.
The deal was brokered in part by Interim District Administrator Dr. Don Childs, attending his first board meeting.
Childs said that, seeing as board members still had questions, another work session would be a good idea. But he stressed that should not prevent approval now, in order to meet legal publication deadlines.
“It would be prudent to give preliminary approval tonight,” he said.
Following the 40 minute budget presentation by Director of Business Services Mary Jo Filbrandt, a motion to table the budget was made by Jessica Meade and seconded by Tim Fuller.
The two board members, echoed by Jim Schulz and Clark Palmer, said they wanted another look at the package to see if a projected 10 percent levy increase was really necessary, especially in light of the fact that they had been on the panel only four months.
“We’ve been at this since April,” Joe Kretz said. “I think that rookie label can end pretty soon.”
Other board members noted that work sessions had been ongoing for many months, and were open to the public.
“Everyone sitting at this table had the same opportunity to be at those work sessions,” Beth Bockes said. “We had ample time.”
Gary Jaje agreed that the levy increase should have surprised no one.
“Everyone knew the levy would spike with a failed referendum,” Jaje said. “Everyone knew that. We can postpone this stuff all we want but there are some realities we are facing.”
The budget calls for a tax levy of $9,273,314, an increase of $869,698, or 10.35 percent.
In her presentation, Filbrandt noted that rising equalized valuations, predicted to increase .34 percent, will nudge the expected mill rate down a bit from first estimations, to $8.74 per $1,000 of equalized valuation.
And the projected mill rate, while up, is still substantially lower than the $9.24 per $1,000 of equalized valuation taxpayers were paying in 2011-12, she stressed.
The higher levy, she said, is due to the payoff of the Middle School debt a year earlier, which caused the levy to dive between 2011-12 and 2012-13. That dive would had been avoided if the November, 2012 referendum to construct a new elementary school had been successful.
Total general fund budget, without including grants, is $24.5 million, a .72 percent increase over the prior year’s level. But the district is also being hammered by a $600,000 reduction in state aid, a decline of 3.78 percent, also due to the substantial levy reduction a year earlier. Those aids will reach $14.7 million for this school year.
The budget includes $1.1 million in cutbacks, including reductions of 12 full-time teachers, a librarian, half-time instructor and a central office secretary. In addition several full-time support staff positions were reduced to half-time.
“The first thought, if your taxes are going up, is that the district must be spending more money,” Filbrandt said. “That is not the case at all.”
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