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School tax levy to increase 3.5 percent

There are hundreds of numbers that could be analyzed when a school district announces its yearly budget.

The Somerset School District finalized its 2009-10 budget at its Oct. 26 board meeting. Here is a rundown on some of the most important numbers to come out of this year's budget.

Levy increase: 3.58 percent

The overall tax levy in the Somerset School District will increase by 3.58 percent for this school year.

The total tax levy for the school district is budgeted at $8,049,978. That is an increase of $278,963 from the 2008-09 levy.

Reaching this level was a challenge for the school board and administrators. The board had adopted a preliminary budget on June 15. On June 29 the state budget was approved by Gov. Jim Doyle. That budget included wide-sweeping cuts to funding of school districts. Somerset was hit hard, losing $550,000 in expected state funds due to the governor's cuts.

The levy goes up by a different rate in each municipality, based on several factors. Here is how much the school district tax levy will increase in each municipality.

Town of St. Joseph: 8.21 percent;

Village of Somerset: 6.23 percent;

Town of Star Prairie: 2.55 percent;

Town of Somerset: 1.43 percent;

Town of Richmond: 0.20 percent.

Falling property values

The Wisconsin Department of Revenue determines equalized property values for each municipality in the state. The municipalities within the school district saw their equalized values fall by an average of 11.42 percent.

Hardest hit was the Town of Richmond, where equalized values dropped 14.02 percent. The other declines were:

Town of Somerset: 13.26 percent;

Town of Star Prairie: 12.30 percent;

Village of Somerset: 9.15 percent;

Town of St. Joseph: 7.46 percent.

The change in equalized valued directly affects how much of the tax levy each municipality must pay. Here are the percentages at which each municipality is responsible for its portion of the levy.

Town of Somerset: 46.67 percent;

Village of Somerset: 24.45 percent;

Town of Star Prairie: 15.94 percent;

Town of St. Joseph: 12.71 percent;

Town of Richmond: 0.24 percent.

The equalized property values dropped in the district to its lowest level since the 2005-06 school year.

Total budget: Up 0.48 percent

Because of the cuts in state funding, the district administration went through the districts expenses to find areas to cut costs or defer spending.

That resulted in the total budget increasing by less than one-half percent. The total budget will increase by $97,000, to $20,509,022.

Not levied: $476,000

The school board seemed to be banking on receiving some good will from the community after not levying the maximum amount allowable under state guidelines.

District business manager Bob Avery said the levy is approximately $476,000 less than what district taxpayers could have been asked to pay this year.

The dollars in the district's general funds this year are actually $197 lower than last year.

Last year, the district was able to make a one-time withdrawal out of its debt service funds of $240,000 to lessen the tax impact in the district. This year, the district had to find ways to cover that $240,000 difference, along with the $550,000 shortfall from the state.

In the initial budget passed in June, a $127,000 surplus has been built into the budget. That was eliminated. An additional $44,000 in revenues was found. Two capital projects at the middle school, budgeted at $280,000, were postponed. They are renovation of the middle school kitchen and replacement of the backup boiler in the building.

Avery said the money budgeted for custodial costs for the three buildings was lowered. He also lowered the amount of money budgeted for utilities.

"If it's an average winter, we should be fine," he said.

Tax credit

The final piece of the overall funding puzzle is the state school levy tax credit that appears on each property tax statement.

This amount of money comes about because the state holds onto school funding as late as possible in the fiscal year. The amount of money in the tax credit pool is expected to increase by 8.5 from the state, so slight tax relief may come from that direction.

Dave Newman

Dave Newman has been the sports editor at the New Richmond News since 1988. He has covered the action in the Middle Border Conference, Dunn-St. Croix Conference and Big Rivers Conference for nearly 30 years.

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