Margaret Rudolph

Rudolph

The Portage Community School District predicts good news for taxpayers.

Current data reflect a tax rate of $9.29 per $1,000 of equalized value, a 1.2 percent reduction from the $9.40 residents paid in 2016-17. The projected tax rate for 2017-18 would amount to $929 for a $100,000 home.

The budget will not be finalized until a special school board meeting is held at 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 23. The main items the school district is waiting on before finalizing its budget include property values, state aid and private voucher students, Business Director Margaret Rudolph said Tuesday.

Rudolph reported the per-pupil spending rate is expected to remain at the same rate as last year — and the year before that — at $9,320. That’s lower than what school districts were able to spend per student in 2011, said District Administrator Charles Poches. He said school officials across Wisconsin had been hopeful the latest state budget would include an increase in the revenue limit, resulting in more resources for students, but Gov. Scott Walker vetoed plans for that.

Portage’s projected per-pupil rate does not factor in referendum dollars, which will be calculated later this month. Portage voters in April 2016 passed a five-year referendum that allows the district to exceed the state-mandated revenue limit by up to $2.6 million each year. Last year the district used $2.3 million instead of the full $2.6 million.

“We’re fortunate to have support from the public,” Rudolph said of the referendums.

Enrollment declined by 104 students, though most of those losses were attributed to relocations and graduations, Rudolph said.

“We have a more mobile society than we did in the past,” she said of the dip in enrollment.

Due to per-pupil aid from the the state, fewer students equates to less money to spend on programming.

Last year, 24 Portage students used the Wisconsin Parental Choice Program, all of them choosing St. John’s Lutheran School in Portage. The loss of those students cost the district $176,000 in state aid. This year’s private-school voucher cap rises from 1 percent to 2 percent, and the district could see its voucher costs double to a maximum of 48 students, Poches said.

Pay increases for all staff, including administrators, averaged 2 percent.

Projections of the school tax rate in past years very often held true, but this year’s loss of 104 students could bump this year’s tax rate up from the projected $9.29, Rudolph and Poches said. But even if the school tax rate climbs higher, it should remain lower than last year’s.

“It’s hard to tell because there are so many variables still in play,” Poches said, “but we feel confident the numbers will hold.”

Follow Noah Vernau on Twitter @NoahVernau

Portage Daily Register reporter