In the weeks leading up to Monday’s annual budget meeting, it became more feasible that the board could adopt a balanced budget. The district was able to capitalize on receiving more aid than expected and not losing as much membership as expected.
The district received guidance from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction in September, when district officials were told they could use all funds that were part of an increase in the revenue limit increase in the biennium budget.
The district also only lost 27 members, or students who reside within the district boundaries, for a total of 6,261. That brought the three-year average to 6,333, which is what aid is based on, in part. With the revenue limit increase, the district was able to use $165,000 per member more than expected within the revenue limit.
“It is my hope that our district will continue to have these conversations to have surplus budgets every year,” Superintendent Willie Garrison told the school board. “One of the things we talk about is having a balanced budget, and of course a balanced budget is breaking even, but I think one of our goals as a district is having a surplus budget so we can do other things that we like to do
The budget will come out to be $114.1 million.
The tax rate will come out to be $3.96, or $793 on a $200,000 home. In 2022-23, it was $4.77, or $954 on a $200,000 home. It is also a significant decrease from the previous four years. In 2020-21 and 2021-22, it was $10.10, or $2,020 on a $200,000 home. In 2019-20, it was $10.30, or In 2018-19, it was $11.73, or $2,346 on a $200,000 home.
The district will use about $12 million in COVID relief funds, which need to be spent by the end of September 2024. Executive Business Director Bob Chady said between $9 million and $9.5 million will be used to stabilize the budget and $2 million and $2.5 million will be used for a heating, ventilation and cooling project at Memorial High School.
Chady referred to the balanced budget as “good news” that coincided with bad news, which was the fund balance. Although it was not as far down as expected, the fund balance is expected to be at 9.88% at the end of the 2023-24 school year, down from 9.93% at the end of 2022-23. It was originally thought to have been 7.9% in the preliminary budget.
The board policy is to keep the fund balance annually at around 14% of its general fund expenditures.
“If I were to ballpark how much more money is needed to get to that 14% in that fund balance I’d say about $4 or $5 million. That’s typically a value that you don’t replenish on an annual basis. So that’s likely something you’d strive to replenish over the course of a number of years, perhaps being in the position of having $400,000 available at the end of a school year that you put back into the fund balance,” Chady said.
In 2016-17, the fund balance was at 20.62% and it went down to 19.65% the following year. It proceeded to fall to 16.39% in 2018-19, 21.61% in 2019-20, 20.26% in 2020-21 and 12.32% in 2021-22.