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By LeAnn R. Ralph
COLFAX — Electors in the Colfax school district approved a property tax levy of $3,007,245 for the 2023-2024 school year at the annual meeting August 21.
Adjustments to the tax levy could be made in October after the September student count and after the exact amount of state aid has been determined, said William C. Yingst Jr., district administrator.
By state law, school boards are required to set an adequate levy to cover the difference between revenue and expenses if that amount is different than the levy approved at the annual meeting.
The property tax levy of $3,007,245 compares to a tax levy for the 2022-2023 school year of $2,814,833, representing an increase of $192,412.
The property tax levy in 2021-2022 was $3,345,616. The tax levy for 2023-2024 is $338,371 less that the property tax levy two years ago.
Non-referendum debt service included in the tax levy is $42,832, and referendum-approved debt service included in the tax levy is $528,163.
The proposed revenue budget for 2023-2024 is $10,447,299, which compares to a revenue budget of $9,925,411 for 2022-2023, representing an increase of $521,888 in revenue.
The expense budget for 2023-2024 is $10,162,390, which compares to an expense budget for 2022-2023 of $9,794,106, representing an increase of $368,284 in expenses.
The mill rate on the 2023-2024 budget is expected to be around $5.25 per $1,000 of property value.
The mill rate is at a 40 year low. There has been a significant increase in property values in the school district, Yingst said.
Readers should note that when property values increase, the mill rate decreases. The value of a particular property from year to year will determine if the property taxes increase or decrease, even if the mill rate has decreased.
For the four years from 2019-2020 to 2021-2023, the mill rate was $7.98 per $1,000 in property value.
The year before, in 2018-2019, the mill rate was $7.99 per $1,000 of property value.
In 1992-93, the mill rate was $17.47 per $1,000 of property value, and the property tax levy was $1,534,896, or about half the property tax that will be levied for the 2023-2024 school year.
In 1996-1997, the mill rate was $10.48 per $1,000 of property value, and the property tax levy was $1,248,014.
The equalized value of property in the Colfax school district was $470,985,816 in 2022, which compares to $419,176,180 in 2021, representing an increase of $51,809,636.
In 2020, the property value in the school district was $392,840,414, which is $78,145,402 less than the equalized value in 2022.
The school district had an equalized value of about $320 million 10 years ago, and then when the sand mines began operating in the parts of the school district located in Chippewa County, the equalized value dropped to $279 million, Yingst said.
Portions of the Town of Cooks Valley and the Town of Howard in Chippewa County are in the Colfax school district.
The overall increase in property value in the Colfax school district is 21.6 percent, Yingst said.
Fund 27 (special education) has a budget of $1,402,567 for 2023-2024.
The Colfax school district will receive $328,273.88 from the state of Wisconsin to fund special education.
The federal government will supply $195,979.39 to fund special education.
Taxpayers in the school district will pay the difference between the state and federal funding for special education and the cost of the program, which amounts to $827,313.89. The money will come from the school district’s Fund 10.
Salaries for special education will amount to $858,492; benefits are listed at $366,224; purchased services are $160,400; non-capital objects will amount to $13,200; capital objects will cost $3,000; and other objects are listed as $1,250.
Non-referendum loans taken out in 2013 for the energy efficiency project are paid off in 2023.
The State Trust Fund Loan, with a disbursement of $696,000 in August of 2013 at 2.75 percent interest, and the Qualified Zone Academy Bond (QZAB) loan of $1 million at zero percent interest were both paid down.
A payment of $77,439.61 on principal and $2,129 in interest on the State Trust Fund Loan were paid March 15, 2023.
The energy efficiency exemption levy was $179,569 annually from 2013 to 2023.
A last payment of $64,803 for the energy efficiency projects will be made in 2023.
The last payment on the land purchase for the Meade property will be paid in June of 2024.
A total of $95,000 was borrowed at an interest rate of 2.69 percent.
Two payments were made annually for $5,442.74 beginning in December of 2015.
Paying off the loan will increase the school district’s cash flow by about $11,000 per year.
The last payment of $30,419.24 for the unfunded pension liability will be made June 15, 2024.
The payments were made twice each year, which will increase the school district’s cash flow by $61,000 each year.
The last payment of $5,969.12 for the tennis court replacement will be made in June of 2029.
The school district borrowed $100,000 for the project at 3.5 percent interest, and as of June 12, 2024, $54,708.70 will remain on the balance of the loan.
Referendum approved debt will be paid off in March of 2036.
A total of $6,935,000 was borrowed at an interest rate of 4 percent, and the first payment on interest of $120,222.11 was made September 1, 2017.
An interest payment of $99,093.75 will be made September 1, 2023, and a payment on the principal of $160,000 plus $101,493.75 in interest was made March 1, 2023.
A payment of $434,093.75, which includes $99,093.75 in interest and $335,000 in principal will be paid March 1, 2024.
On March 1 of next year, the remaining loan balance will be $5.19 million.
The final payment in March of 2036 will be $8,400 in interest plus $420,000 in principal.
Fund 46, capital improvements, had a balance of $305,020.94 at the end of the 2022-2023 school year.
Expenditures for 2023-2024 are expected to be $205,750, with $105,750 being spent for vehicle replacement and $100,000 spent on maintenance upgrades, leaving a balance at the end of the school year of $101,770.94.
Money deposited into Fund 46 could be used five years after the fund was started, and the funds come from money left over in the budget.
The Colfax school district was able to begin spending money from Fund 46 as of June 16, 2020.
The money can only be spent on items that have been approved for the long-term capital improvement plan.
Fund 50, food service, has budgeted revenue of $499,000 for 2023-2024 and expenditures of $541,163.34, leaving an estimated fund balance of $176,776.41.
Food for the 2023-2024 budget is listed at $210,000, milk is $45,000 and other supplies are $15,000.
Non-capital equipment is listed at $2,000; equipment added is $25,000; equipment replaced is $10,000.
Full time and part time wages are listed at $154,121.89.
Daily meal prices are $1.50 for junior kindergarten; $3.85 for an adult; $2.85 for grades K to 5; $3 for grades 6 to 12; breakfast is $1.60; milk is 45 cents; and an extra entree is $1.30.
Residents in the school district approved resolutions that are presented annually to provide for the prosecution or defense of any action or proceeding in which the school district is interested; to approve a hot lunch program; and to authorize the sale of personal property.
The resolution pertaining to school board salaries left the salaries the same as last year: $95 per meeting for all board members; $1,050 per year for the school board president and the clerk; $700 per year for the school board directors.
The resolution on school board salaries includes a provision for mileage to be paid at the rate established by the Internal Revenue Service and that each board member will receive $200 per day, less payroll taxes, to attend the state school board convention.
The last resolution set the October school board meeting for the fourth Monday due to the October 15 equalized aid release date and for setting the proposed tax levy.
The November school board meeting will be changed to the second Monday.
The March of 2024 school board meeting will be changed to the second Monday.
The April of 2024 school board meeting will be changed to the fourth Monday to align with newly elected board members.
The July of 2024 board meeting will be changed to the second Monday.
The annual meeting for 2024 will be the third Monday in August (August 19, 2024).
All regular school board meetings start at 6 p.m.
Yingst also asked board members to think about whether they might want to hold regular school board meetings on Wednesdays in the future.
Holding the meetings on a Wednesday rather than a Monday would leave more time to prepare materials for the school board packets, he said.
Changing the meeting days from Monday to Wednesday would have to be accomplished by the residents in the district at next year’s annual meeting, Yingst said.
Because the energy efficiency loan has been paid off, the energy efficiency resolution for $179,569 no longer needs approval at the annual meeting.