The Grantsburg school board held their budget and annual meeting last week on Monday evening. Superintendent Joshua Watt led the presentation of the budget and discussed important information with the public pertaining to their budget process, and the new tax levy and mill rate, and how it may affect the community’s taxes.
Watt said that the process they use to develop the budget each year is a 10-month process. It begins with supply and equipment requests from staff each December. The board sets site and facility improvement priorities, the budget team estimates enrollment and revenue, and analyzes spending patterns. In March, they make staffing decisions based on available revenue. In May, a draft budget for the school board is presented prior to the teacher non-renewal deadline. They review and receive input from the budget team, finance committee and board. August, the budget is adjusted after hiring is completed. In September, the official student enrollment count is calculated. In October, the final budget publication is published, and the annual meeting notices presented.
The enrollment count that takes place in September is an important step in the process. Watt explained that enrollment impacts school district finances. “Revenue cap enrollment is taken in September- this sets the district’s revenue budget for the year. The official September enrollment of Grantsburg is 1,768 students pre-k through 12, that includes all five schools, which includes our iForward Charter School. There are 845 students in our brick-and-mortar schools.”
Their September FTE (full-time equivalent) increased from last year by 13 students from 810 to 823. Watt stated that the revenue limit FTE uses a three-year rolling average FTE, not just a single school year. This year, the district has 822 FTEs compared to last year’s 831, which is a slight decrease. Watt said, “822 FTE is the number that determines the revenue to fund programs in this budget.” The school’s enrollment is also on a decrease compared to the last 5-10 years; however, it did increase compared to the last year.
Watt also took the time to explain how much money comes from the state and how the amount is determined. “Equalization aid is based on prior year expenditures, state formula factors and past enrollment. Equalization aid is $4,771,809.” He said that it is a decrease of $358,194, or 6.99%, compared to the previous year. Some of those reasons could be decreased shared costs from the 2020-21 school year and the increased property evaluation. The property evaluation of the school district increased by 9.19% this year, and it is the sixth year in a row that the evaluation has increased. The equalization aid that the district receives is what determines the tax levy.
Property tax revenues are controlled by the state’s revenue limit. This year, the fund 10 levy is $3,581,692. The total tax levy includes no debt service, community education $46,000 (which includes the village swimming pool of $25,000). The total levy, or dollars needed, is $3,627,692; this is up $209,713, or 6.1%. Watt said that the district’s tax levy revenue is up this year overall largely due to a decrease in the 2021 shared costs. Expenditures increased from last year in areas like utility and fixed costs like gas, electricity and telephone, iForward added additional full-time staff at the k-5 grade levels that they added last year, early college credit options, travel, in-service, liability insurance, cost of living increase, technology updates, maintenance needs, etc.
Watt also explained how the mill rate is determined for the district. “To calculate the tax rate, or the mill rate, it’s to divide the dollar amount needed; the tax levy; by the district equalized property evaluation.” So, Grantsburg’s mill rate equals out to be 7.277 mills. By comparing that mill rate to previous years, Watt said, “It’s lower than last year, and it’s the third lowest mill rate over the last 19 years.”
This mill rate is also used to help determine property taxes. “They multiply your mill rate times the assessed property evaluation, so as an example, a property valued at $100,000 will equal $727.78 in school taxes.” By looking back compared to last year at the taxes per $100,000 of property value in Grantsburg, there is a decrease of $20.93 per $100,000. When comparing the Grantsburg School District to the other 39 schools in CESA 11, Grantsburg was tied for the third lowest mill rate in 2020.
If you were not able to attend the annual meeting and budget presentation, and you would like to read more about their budget process and compare their numbers to previous years and other districts, you can find their annual meeting booklet at https://www.gk12.net/page/3561.