Residents of the Sauk Prairie School District passed a projected tax levy of $18,210,338 and a mill rate of $9.73, translating into about a $52 increase in taxes on a property valued at $250,000. Voters passed the levy and learned about the school district’s 2017-18 budget of just under $30 million during its budget hearing and annual meeting on Sept. 11.
The Annual Meeting provides two parts: The budget hearing, which gives residents a look at future budget projections and the current school year. The Annual Meeting is held to review the prior year’s expenses and receipts, as well as the fund balance. It also provides the opportunity for residents to vote on actions items such as board members’ salaries and to set the time and date of next year’s annual meeting, according to Brent Richter, business director for the Sauk Prairie School District.
During the Sept. 11 meeting, district residents voted to increase salaries of school board members from $70 per meeting to $72 per meeting. They also set the date and time for the next annual meeting to be Sept. 10, 2018 at 7 p.m.
“The tax levy provides authorization from our constituents to impose taxes for the purposes of operating a school district,” Richter said.
The $18,210,338 tax levy is comprised of a general fund or an operations fund, according to Richter. “It includes everything to run our district, from teacher’s salaries and benefits to general supplies to instruct students and utilities and transportation.” This year’s general fund is $15,234,154, with about 75 percent of those dollars going to teacher’s salaries and benefits.
Also included in the tax levy is the referendum debt service fund, which is $2,501,119 this year. Richter said this was the bonds issued for the construction of Bridges Elementary and the district office, in addition to building upgrades at other schools. Those bonds were issued on a 20-year debt cycle.
The non-referendum debt service fund, of which is $165,065 of the tax levy, is from a 2012 general note and $310,000 comprises the community service fund, the cost of run the district’s community recreation and education programs, including the River Arts Center.
Richter said the 2017-18 budget is very similar to the 2016-17 budget, “However the tax levy does increase by about $625,000,” Richter said.
The district is still waiting on its state funding and final student count, which is gathered from student attendance on the third Friday of September, according to the state Department of Public Instruction policy.
Richter said so far Governor Walker has proposed an increase of $200 per student which has yet to be passed. That translates into an additional $500,000 in aid from the state. Another important piece of the budget is the district’s health insurance saw a minimal increase of only 1.8 percent, very good in a time when other districts are seeing increases up to 20 percent, Richter said. The 2017-18 budget also assumes 1.26 in CPI certification and no increase to its classroom supply budget. This brings the projected budget to an approximately $200,000 deficit, assuming $29,949,688 in revenues and $30,149,920 in expenses.
During a school board meeting in October, and once state aid and student counts are known, the board is scheduled to have the final budget on its agenda.
Richter said during the meeting the district is “in a really good spot” and noted the district’s fund balance hasn’t changed since Cliff Thompson became superintendent about 10 years.
School Board President Ryan Jesberger said the Sauk Prairie School District is one that values its people. “That includes staff, students, its community members, leadership and board members as well,” Jesberger said. “As we talk about numbers and money and stuff like that, our students are our most prized assets in this district.”
Jesberger said the district strives to make the Sauk Prairie School District a place where people want to work and are happy in their jobs. He said Superintendent Thompson is “the best superintendent in the state” noting his commitment to students, staff and the community. “As I used to go to work at 10 p.m. I’d drive by and see the light on in Dr. Thompson’s office and his car in the parking lot,” Jesberger said. No Jesberger said he sees Thompson’s office light on at 5 a.m. “So I’m not sure when he’s getting any sort of time for himself, but he is the best superintendent in the state and we are honored to have him leading our district.”
Jesberger said the district also has community support, whether monetarily through taxes or through co-curriculuars, attendance at football, lacrosse or forensics, supporting National Honor Society fundraisers, meeting attendance and the like. “Our community supports our district in a way I think is unique to the area, and it really makes Sauk Prairie a special place,” Jesberger said.
Lastly, Jesberger said Sauk Prairie is a district of great people and is a great community. “Our goal is to make sure this is a destination district as staff and families look at their options,” he said. “We want this to be a place staff want to be and where people want their children to be. People and places – two simple words but it’s what we live for and live by.”