State aid, private school voucher costs and school-related property taxes have increased this year for the Baraboo School District.
Twenty-seven district residents, mostly school employees, voted unanimously to approve a $16.61 million school tax levy after Director of Business Services Yvette Updike presented the district’s 2019-20 budget Monday night at Baraboo High School.
“The most important thing, I believe, is — and what you guys probably all care about — we have a balanced budget for the 2019-20 school year,” Updike said.
The tax levy represents a 6% increase from last year’s $15.67 million levy, largely due to the Jack Young Middle School renovation and addition. Voters approved the $42 million building project in an April referendum.
Baraboo’s school tax rate will rise by almost 3.5% from last year to $9.57 per $1,000 of value this year. Updike noted it remains below the estimated state average for school tax rates of $9.77.
At that rate, the owner of a $100,000 home in Baraboo can expect to pay $957 in school-related taxes this year.
Updike highlighted the impact of private school vouchers on Baraboo and its neighboring districts, including Portage, Lodi, Reedsburg, Richland Center and Sauk Prairie.
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The Baraboo School District has seen a 78.6% rise in voucher students since last year, with 28 students in 2018-19 rising to 50 this year. Baraboo paid about $221,000 to private schools for those students last year and will pay about $405,000 this year.
“We have seen the largest impact of the districts that have been outlined in this slide, followed by Portage,” Updike said.
Portage will pay about $350,000 this year for voucher students, according to the district’s business manager.
Updike said voucher costs account for 2.4% of the district’s tax levy this year. General school operating costs, including staff salaries and benefits, make up the largest portion of the levy at 65.3%, while the middle school referendum makes up the second-largest at almost 26%.
Board member Doug Mering has advocated for legislators to include a voucher line-item on local property tax bills so residents can see how much of their tax money goes to parochial schools. He asked Updike at the Oct. 14 board meeting to include the voucher numbers in her annual meeting presentation.
School board members approved the final budget after the annual meeting for district electors. Member Gary Cummings was absent.
The $34.1 million general fund budget for the 2019-20 school year is about 1% higher than last year’s audited $33.7 million budget. That’s an increase of roughly $367,000.
Student membership, a figure used to calculate state aid, remained stable this year, increasing by two to 2,961.
State aid to the district increased by about 5.3%, Updike said. Equalization aid, which accounts for just more than half of the district’s general fund revenue, went up by 4.4% with about $710,000 more than last year.
Expenses also increase under the budget. Purchased services, including private school vouchers, transportation, utilities and costs associated with students leaving the district for other public schools, rose by about $900,000.
Follow Susan Endres on Twitter @EndresSusan or call her at 745-3506.