Janesville52.5°

Janesville School District budget nearly done

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Frank Schultz
October 8, 2012

— Tuesday night is the time set aside for the public to comment on the Janesville School District's 2012-13 budget. It could be a quiet hearing.

No great controversies sprung up while the board was making budget decisions over the past seven months or so, and the district's property tax levy will go down.

The hearing on the budget is part of the school board's 6:30 p.m. meeting.

The only major decision for the board is how to close a budget shortfall of about $3.5 million. Board members can squeeze that amount from district operating reserves, and some have indicated that's how they're going to close the gap. No one has proposed any alternative.

The reserves, also referred to as the fund balance, are on the agenda, but the board is unlikely to come to agreement on that item Tuesday.

One major piece of the budget puzzle is the final figure for state aid, which comes out Oct. 15, said Keith Pennington, the district's chief financial officer. Until then, all school districts are working off estimates for state aid, which is the biggest single piece of revenue for many districts, including Janesville.

The board will likely approve the budget and set the tax levy at its Oct. 23 meeting, Pennington said.

The budget calls for the average house assessed at $112,000 to pay $920.94 in school taxes. That's about $33.51 less than last year.

The tax estimate, however, is pre-lottery tax credit and is based on equalized values. Precise numbers won't be known until each municipality calculates taxes based on assessed property values.

"But the reduction, that's not going to change," Pennington said. "There will still be a reduction."

The lower-than-last-year tax levy is required by the state funding formula, which controls school revenues. The board could decide to tax less than the maximum allowed, but that seems unlikely.

Not taxing to the max would mean a loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars in state aid, which would make it harder to balance the budget. No board member has suggested this.

The major reason the tax levy is down is that state aid is up. All state revenue sources combined are up 3.57 percent this year, to about $71 million, according to the estimates as of Sept. 25.

State aid accounts for nearly 65 percent of district revenue, followed by the tax levy and other local monies, such as fees.

The cost of salaries of all district employees will go up about 3.9 percent, due in large part to union contracts, Pennington said, although administrators and other nonunion employees also will cost more in salaries and benefits.

The cost of benefits for all employees is going up 6.9 percent.

As usual, salaries and benefits account for about 85 percent of the operational budget.

Total operational costs are going up 2.84 percent to $113.48 million. All spending—which includes operational funds, debt service and other funds, will exceed $126 million.

SCHOOL BOARD MEMBERS TO LISTEN

The Janesville School Board plans three sessions Tuesday night in the board room of the Educational Services Center, 527 S. Franklin St.:

-- 5:30 p.m.—School board members Karl Dommershausen and Kevin Murray will hold a listening session. Residents are invited to voice concerns or ask questions about the schools.

-- 6:30 p.m.—The board's regular meeting will include the annual public hearing on the budget.

-- About 8:30 p.m.—The board plans a special closed meeting immediately after the regular board meeting to discuss possible negotiations with the district's unions in the wake of the unions' recent request to bargain a 2012-14 contract.



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