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Janesville school taxes could rise

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Frank Schultz
July 5, 2013

JANESVILLE

Property taxes imposed by the Janesville School Board could rise by 1.7 percent.

The board is scheduled to hear a report on the 2013-14 budget when it meets Tuesday.

A memo from Chief Financial Officer Keith Pennington estimates taxes on a $114,000 home in Janesville would increase by $19.

The memo kicks off the board's annual budget deliberations.

Pennington's figures are based on estimates because final figures for state aid, fall enrollment and other factors are not yet known. The board will make its final decision on the property tax levy in late October.

Pennington was not available for comment Friday, but his memo notes the recently adopted state budget increases state aid to Janesville schools by 1.4 percent, or $891,688.

The aid increase, however, is nearly offset by a decrease of 2.6 percent, or $731,529, in the district's revenue cap.

The revenue cap is a combination of state aid and property taxes for operational expenses.

However, debt payments are not covered by the revenue cap, and the district's debt payments, including debt on the last building referendum, will increase by $1.11 million, or 13.9 percent, from last year, according to Pennington's memo.

It appears the debt payments are the major reason for the overall tax increase.

In a related matter Tuesday, the board is scheduled to consider what to do with more than $1 million that was budgeted but not spent in the fiscal year that ended June 30.

The exact amount is not known because financial statements for the past year are not yet closed, Pennington wrote in another memo to the superintendent.

One option would be to use some or all of the surplus to fund the district's early-retirement benefits. Those benefits have been paid out of the operational budget for decades, but new accounting standards call for pre-funding the benefits.

The benefits, also known as “other post-employment benefits,” amount to more than $13 million. At least some school board members have wanted to set aside money for this purpose for several years, but they have not had money available until now.

If the board pays into its other-post-employment-benefits account, that would “maximize” the amount of state aid the district receives in the coming year, Pennington wrote.

That wording suggests that not making the payment would mean less state aid.

The payment must be made by July 30 to affect state aid. Pennington is asking the board to decide Tuesday because of time-consuming efforts to prepare the transfer of funds.

If the board approves the transfer Tuesday, the board's finance committee would have to approve the payment amount at its meeting July 16, and the full board would have to vote on it July 23.



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