Written by MICHAEL LoCICERO
Wednesday, 29 October 2014 19:57
Loss of district valuation rather than spending drives increase in taxes
Residents in the Cedar Grove-Belgium School District will see an estimated 45-cent increase in the tax rate for the 2014-15 budget, which was unanimously approved by the school board Oct. 22 following a public hearing.
The budget will require a tax rate of $10.22 per $1,000 of equalized value, a 4.6% increase from last year.
That is the highest rate since 2002-03.
The district’s state aid also increased, from $5.6 million in 2013-14 to $5.76 million.
The district’s equalized property valuation, which helps calculate state aid, declined for the fifth consecutive year to $545 million, a decrease of 1.57%.
“I can’t argue that the mill rate is going up, but the value in the district is going down, which isn’t in our control,” Business Manager Kris DeBruine said.
Total operating expenses in the budget is $14.66 million, up 1.39% from last year.
Spending in that budget was up 5.71% from the previous year.
Some of the increase in expenses comes from the special education fund, which is up 3.4%, largely due to increased personnel, DeBruine said.
The district hired a school nurse who works one day per week, as well as an elementary school special education teacher, due to an increase in federal grant money.
The school board approved a $5.57 million property tax levy, which is a 3% increase from last year.
The levy includes $513,000 for debt payments and $5.06 million for the general fund.
The district has a fund balance of about $3.3 million, which remained the same as last year.
DeBruine noted that the district has increased spending by 7.3% over the last five years.
“I don’t think that’s irresponsible,” she said.
DeBruine said the spending increase from 2012-13 to 2013-14 is largely due to essential buildings and grounds projects, like replacing leaky roofs at the middle school and resurfacing parking lots.
The district also restructured parking lots to change traffic patterns to provide safer drop off and pick up of students.
In personal matters, the board approved the resignation of high school custodian Mike Ciske.
The board also hired Joe Watry as a second-shift custodian and Lori Schroeder as a junior varsity girls basketball coach.