There’s likely good news for taxpayers out of the Muskego-Norway School District. The district, which was once projecting a tax levy increase of 5 percent, now believes the levy may rise no more than 1 percent.
The change is the result of the district’s new state aid projections, which it received June 29, according to Scot Ecker, director of Business Services.
Ecker told Patch that the district’s state aid is now projected to only drop $200,000. While that’s not an insignificant amount, Ecker said the district had originally projected it would lose $1.5 million in state aid.
“We had actually estimated a larger drop,” he said in an interview with Patch on Thursday. “It’s great. If we look back to January, there was a time we were projecting a 5 percent tax levy increase. As of April 20, the board took some recommendations to reduce expenses which would maximize our tax levy increase at 3 percent. Now we’re estimating no more than a 1 percent tax levy increase.”
Ecker said the School Board will have a more thorough budget discussion, including a “tighter tax levy estimate” at the July 30 board meeting.
Ecker estimated that the $200,000 decrease is still not the final number; the state Department of Public Instruction will finalize the state aid figures in October. “It’s a preliminary estimate but it’s definitely good news,” he said.
Ecker said the larger projection was a conservative one. “We had projected conservatively in January not knowing how 4-year-old kindergarten would affect our state aid. Preliminarily, it appears that a combination of our student count, previous years’ expenses and our addition of 4-year-old kindergarten a couple years ago are starting to positively affect the district.”
He said that the district had projected several years ago that adding students to enrollment figures via the addition of 4-year-old kindergarten would help the district because of how state aid is calculated. “Districts are aided on their property wealth per student. And by adding students through 4-year-old kindergarten, we become a less wealthy district compared to other districts across the state," Ecker said. "By adding students, we look less properly wealthy. We’re happy it finally came true.”
He said the district’s enrollment numbers are about 5,000 students, but that’s up from about 4,850 before the addition of 4 K.
Ecker said the district is absorbing the state aid drop by not filling a couple of open teaching positions. He said the district had originally estimated a much higher drop because “we wanted to stay conservative because of how the funding mechanism changed with when the new governor took office and the pending recall.”
He noted that state aid has dropped overall $2 million from two years ago. But this year’s projected drop would represent a stabilization of the declines.
“Our worst fears didn’t come true this year,” Ecker said. The overall school budget is about $70 million.