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GLENWOOD CITY — Taxpayers in the Glenwood City School District will see a slight increase in their mill rate following the approval of a tax levy of $2,730, 903 to support the proposed budget for the 2020-2021 school year at the annual meeting held Monday evening, August 17 in the high school commons area.
The mill rate was set at 9.74 or $9.74 per $1,000 of equalized valuation. This figure is up .25 from this past year’s mill rate of 9.49 but in line with the rates since the 2012-13 school year which have ranged from 9.40 to 10.04.
The $2,730,903 is the amount local taxpayers will be dishing out to support the school district’s educational mission while the remainder of the $8,588,928 approved budget for 2020-2021 will come from state funding sources.
District administrator Tim Johnson went over the 2020-2021 proposed budget in detail during the budget hearing which was held just prior to the annual meeting. During the hearing, Johnson outlined and explained the various funds, from the general fund to special education, long-term capital funds, food service, scholarship and community education, that the district draws from each year to cover operational expenses. Those expenses are balanced by the revenues that the Glenwood City School District collects from local and state sources.
Johnson told the 15 people in attendance, which included six of the seven school board members and the four-member administration team, that 85 percent of the district’s expenses are people.
Declining in-district student enrollment has had an effect on how the district collects its revenues each year. As the full-time equivalent (FTE), which is officially taken the third Friday each September, decreases so does the amount of state aid the district receives thereby placing a larger financial burden on the local taxpayers to make up the difference.
“As you’ll see, we are projecting one of our lowest, actually the lowest since I have been in Glenwood, number of students and that is at 660,” said Johnson. “Our numbers have been as high as the mid-700s.”
Since student enrollment district-wide peaked at 748 in 2014, it has steadily declined the past six years to the projected count of 660 for the upcoming 2020-21 school calendar year.
“We continue to dwindle, and this fall we expect with some of the outside influences (such as the COVID-19 pandemic) that are there, that we may even see a few, less (students),” added Johnson.
Another big factor in the tax levy amount, according to Johnson, is property valuation (in the district). He told those in attendance that valuation figures were kept the same during the budgeting process for the upcoming year but added if the valuation does go up then the mill rate will go down because there will then be more property value to spread across the district. Johnson said he is anticipating an increase in the property valuations saying he would not be surprised if it were in the five to ten percent range.
“It is a sellers’ market right now,” stated Johnson. “If you have a house for sale and it’s a fair price, they are selling relatively fast in St. Croix County and even in Glenwood City.”
“If that (property valuations) goes up, the mill rate will go down so that is a positive,” added Johnson.
“Another piece that is a reality of the revenue limit is called a “Declining Enrollment Exemption”,” continued Johnson. “The state does its best to not have you get hit one year really hard because you have less kids.”
The exemption is based on a three-year average of enrollments and Johnson this year’s exemption is $130,000. Johnson said that means the district will be receiving $130,000 more than it should because the state is trying to ease the district into the fact that Glenwood City is facing declining enrollment.
Unfortunately, it’s only a one-time exemption said Johnson and that the district will start with $130,000 less in base revenue next year.
A declining enrollment trend adversely affects the amount of state aid and increases the amount of taxes the district must collect from local taxpayers due to the decrease in state aid.
“We don’t want to be declining in enrollment, but we are in declining enrollment,” said Johnson. “I wish I had a better solution for that but that’s the state of where we are at.”
In the final portion of the annual meeting, those in attendance approved the items on the consent agenda, which included setting board member salaries at $2,300 per year for officers and $2,000 for regular members along with a $50 per member stipend for special meetings and a per diem of $50 per day when traveling away from the district; setting next year’s annual meeting and budget hearing for August 16, 2021; and the authority to deal with busing routes; and heard this past year’s accomplishments and future goals from principals Betsy Haltinner and Patrick Gretzlock, and Director of Pupil Services and Special Education Nicole Brite.