Tuesday, October 13, 2009

De Pere Considers 3.5% Levy Increase

The Unified School District of De Pere (that's the east side of the river) is considering a 3.5% increase in the property tax levy according to Superintendent Dr. Benjamin Villaruel. In an email to me Villaruel indicated:

At this time, we are anticipating a 3.5% increase in the property tax levy. Last year’s property tax levy was $17,911,333. We are anticipating a levy for this year of $18,541,799.

As Bill [that's board treasurer Bill Van Beek] stated, a big part of the reason that we were able to minimize the levy increase is that the Board restructured (advanced refunded) a total of $5,000,000 in debt service payments. The Board was able to do this because of their practice to take long term debt out only 10 years as opposed to 15 or 20 years. In addition, the board will refinance some of its debt in 2011 when some notes become callable. Without such restructuring, the levy increase could have been about 13% to 15%. In addition, the board reduced the budget by about $300,000 in June when we learned that the State was restricting our revenues because of the decline in general purpose tax revenues....

we received $23,312,396 in state aid (equalization aid) for the 08 – 09 school year. This year, we are anticipating $22,535,403 in state aid (the exact amount will be sent to us by the state on October 15) which equates to a reduction of $776,993 from our last school year.

District enrollment for 2009-2010 is up 1.24% bringing the total to 3,741 students. Putting the levy at $4,956 per student and the state equalization aid at $6,023 per student.

While I do appreciate the board's efforts to keep the levy down and to reduce spending in light of current circumstances, it would have been preferable in my mind if they could have reduced spending even further and kept the levy unchanged or with a very minimal increase. In a time of high unemployment and very low inflation, an increase of even 3.5% can seem high. Of course, when seen in comparison to Appleton's proposed levy increase of 9.7%, perhaps De Pere is doing something right.

Finalization of the state aid amounts are upcoming, after which the levy amount will be finalized. According to Treasurer Van Beek, the vote on the budget and levy amount has been set for Friday 10/23 at 7:30 AM. If you are interested in attending, you can call the district office at 337-1032 to confirm that this has not changed. If you are interested in making your voice heard on this issue, I suggest you do it before the final vote. You can find contact information for the school board members at this link. Contact information for the superintendent is here.

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