School tax levy stays the same
There was good and bad news for a small crowd of taxpayers that showed up at last week's Hudson School District annual meeting.
The good news is that the 2010-11 levy of $27,828,892 is the same amount levied last year. The bad news is that district property valuation dropped by almost 8 percent which caused the mill rate to rise by more than 8 percent from $7.67 last year to $8.31 per $1,000 of property value for 2010-11.
The Hudson School District budget for the current school year is $51.5 million. Last year's unaudited budget was $47.7 million. Despite the increased budget, the district's administration recommended several steps to keep the levy the same as last year.
Those steps included:
Director of Financial Services Tim Erickson presented the budget and tax figures. Erickson said that in addition to the $600,000 taken from the general fund to offset the levy, the board had also voted to take $1 million from it to cover half of the cost of the Hudson Middle School addition. The remaining $1 million of the $2 million project is being funded by federal interest-free school construction bonds.
According to Erickson, the fund balance at the time of the meeting was $15,179,572. The fund balance is used to cover the district's cash flow throughout the year and by policy is supposed to be at around 25 percent of the budget. Erickson said the balance of the fund fluctuates throughout the year as taxes and state aids are received and expenditures are paid out. Erickson said the fund balance saves the district money by eliminating the need for short-term borrowing and through allocations like those made this year to offset the levy and capital projects like the HMS addition.
District property valuation, according to estimates provided by the Wisconsin Department of Revenue, has dropped by about $282 million since last year. The biggest decrease appears to be in the Town of Hudson where values fell by 10.6 percent, followed by 8.8 percent in North Hudson and around 7 percent in the city of Hudson and St. Joseph Township. The lowest drop was in the Town of Troy at just over 1 percent. See chart with story for details.
Erickson pointed out that the Hudson School District continues to have among the lowest costs per student, $10,667 in 2008-09, of districts of 4,000 students or more, ranking in the lower 11 percent of districts statewide. In the same year, Hudson has the third lowest mill rate of the 39 districts in CESA 11. The data is the most recent tabulated by the Department of Public Instruction.
Erickson told voters at the meeting that a review of mill rates in 2009-10 in surrounding districts showed Hudson with the lowest at $7.67. The mill rate last year in Menomonie was $9.91, $10.27 in New Richmond, $9.74 in River Falls and $11.60 in Somerset.
He also reported that again this year, the Hudson School District will levy below the state's revenue limit, something they have done for the past several years and at a greater amount than most districts in the state on a consistent basis. In 2008-09 Hudson was number 1 among all districts in the state for levying $5.1 million below the state's revenue limit.
The levy amount includes $4,561,753 in debt service.
Five people attending the meeting asked questions. Concerns included administrative salary increases, specifically that of the superintendent. Erickson said that administrative increases should be considered over a two-year period due to the districtwide wage freeze in 2009-10. He added that they were necessary to retain and attract highly qualified employees who would deliver a high quality education. VanLoenen said Bowen-Eggebraaten's raise, which extends from 2010-11 through 2011-12 with a 5.4 percent increase each year, as well as that of other administrators, was appropriate "to deliver on the promise of high quality education and post secondary success" for Hudson graduates.
Two residents voiced concern about the lack of bidding for the district's health insurance. Erickson said the district did put a cap on the amount the district would pay but said the contract with the teachers' union does not allow for a bid process unless both the district and the union agree. The union would not agree to open bidding during the last contract negotiations.
For more information on the district's budget and tax levy contact Erickson at (715) 377-3704 or go online at www.hudson.k12.wi.us.