The Webster School District annual meeting was brief and had very few surprises, except some very good news from school superintendent Jeff Fimreite, who revealed positive economic news for district residents while the annual budget, tax levy and future plans were approved at the meeting, held on Monday, Sept. 27.
According to preliminary budget numbers, the overall school tax levy for the coming school year will decrease approximately 3-percent, from $6.557-million down to $6.403-million, a difference of nearly $154,000.
While the final mill rate numbers are somewhat a guess, they are based on both the tax levy and the equalized property values, which are expected to increase approximately 3-percent, combined with a reduced tax levy, the final impacts are expected to mean a decreased mill rate of $5.12 down to $4.90 per $1,000 of property values.
Fimreite noted that the Webster School District has nearly the lowest mill rate of any school district in Wisconsin.
“We did a little research and found that we’re much lower than the surrounding districts, and across the state, we’re in the bottom ten,” Fimreite said, assuring it was not the bottom 10-percent, but actually among the very lowest ten districts for mill rates. “We’re very proud of that.”
While the economic news was very good, the challenges of the past year and possibly future years with a looming pandemic are not a time to get complacent.
“These are difficult times as we navigate the pandemic, and we face challenges in funding,” stated. “I assure you we will not let economic difficulty stand in the way of our students’ education.”
Fimreite again noted that the final tax levy and mill rate are somewhat up in the air, as the finalized district equalized value numbers are still pending, but the district is seeming to be on a solid course, and is operating with a strong reserve, just in case, with the state suggesting that school districts have enough for reserves in the bank for three-to-four months of operation, in a worst case scenario. Webster is well above that level, operating at about 47-percent in reserves, alleviating some concerns.
“We have a healthy balance,” assured district accountant Crystal Houman, who went over some of the individual categories for expenditures, while also pointing out changes in how they are accounted for or allocated, Houman outlined a few changes to how certain funds are tallied due to general accounting practice changes, and how a few of the Fund 80 account numbers this past year for things like community education, summer school and the like, are atypical, due to the pandemic.
Both Houman and Fimreite noted the background on some of the Fund 80 changes, which included a delay in summer school and reduced community education offerings during this budget cycle, due to the pandemic.
“We’re really hoping it all goes back to normal,” Fimreite said with a nod, setting what he said were more realistic budget numbers for this coming year, which may include the previous years’ classes.
The final enrollment projections were not set, but Fimreite believes the numbers will go up.
The final budget numbers were approved after a brief discussion, and the budget hearing was adjourned with no further action, with the annual meeting lasting another 13 minutes before the tax levy was approved. They set the 2022 annual meeting and budget hearing for Sept. 26, 2022 at 5 p.m. before adjourning for another year.