By LeAnn R. Ralph
GLENWOOD CITY — A new state law that increases sparsity aid and the per pupil revenue limit ceiling for rural schools will benefit the Boyceville school district and the Glenwood City school district.
Governor Scott Walker signed Assembly Bill 835 into law on March 12.
Sparsity aid is intended to help low-population rural school districts.
Assembly Bill 835 provides help to low-population school districts by modifying the sparsity categorical aid program as well as the per pupil revenue limit ceiling that allows school districts to only collect a certain amount in property taxes.
The bill increases sparsity aid from $300 to $400 per pupil beginning in 2018-2019 and appropriates nearly $6.5 million in general purpose revenue to fund the increase.
According to a news release from the governor’s office, the sparsity aid increase will benefit an estimated 144 school districts.
Wisconsin has 426 school districts, so the sparsity aid increase is expected to help about one-third of the school districts in the state.
The bill also will increase the low revenue ceiling per pupil from $9,100 to $9,400 in 2018-2019; to $9,500 in 2019-2020; to $9,600 in 2020-2021; $9,700 in 2021-2022; and $9,800 in 2022-2023, according to the news release.
The news release notes that 107 school districts have per pupil base revenue amounts of less than $9,400, which may make them eligible for the revenue ceiling adjustment next year.
The bill passed the state Assembly on a vote of 90 to 3 and was approved in the state Senate on a vote of 31 to 1.
For the Boyceville school district, the revenue correction will result in an additional $1,478 for the school district, said Kevin Sipple, district administrator.
Sipple said it was his understanding that the changes to sparsity aid and the revenue ceiling would only affect the 2018-2019 budget.
Boyceville has been eligible for sparsity aid in the past, but the school district would have to stay below the 745 student enrollment number to be eligible in 2018-2019, he said.
“If we are eligible, we would see a projected sparsity aid increase of $76,780. These numbers are projected given the state does not know who is eligible until membership counts are finalized,” Sipple said.
Tim Johnson, Glenwood City district administrator, said it also was his understanding that the changes would only impact next year’s revenue for the school district.
The current school year is the first time Glenwood City has qualified for sparsity aid, Johnson said.
“This is good from the sparsity aid perspective; however, it means that our enrollment has declined to the point where we qualify,” he said.
The adjustment will give Glenwood City about $72,000 of additional revenue, Johnson said.
“The underside of this is due to our declining enrollment exemption this year, our revenue limit will be decreased by $145,000 next year at the start. So with those two factors, we are still starting the year with less money than we did this year,” he said.
“The additional $204 per pupil that is part of next year’s categorical aid will bring us back to an overall net of about $70,000 of new money in the budget compared to this year,” Johnson said.