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Direction of Financial Services Tim Erickson laid out the details of this year's school tax levy at the annual meeting Sept. 10. (Hudson Star-Observer photos by Meg Heaton)

School tax will decline in Hudson district; has state's lowest per pupil cost

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news River Falls, 54022
River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

A small number of Hudson School District residents present at the state mandated annual meeting on Sept. 10 approved the 2013-14 school tax levy of $29,870,173.

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The levy, which includes $25,743,450 for the district's general fund and $4,126,723 for debt service, is up 2.34 percent or $681,998 over last year's levy.

There was good news when it came to property valuation in the district. It rose in all five district municipalities. The largest increases were in the Town of St. Joseph where it rose by 7.68 percent and in North Hudson were property valuation rose by 6.63 percent. This is the first rise in property valuation in Hudson in five years.

The bottom line for taxpayers is that despite an increase in the school budget of almost 7 percent, increased valuation translates into a lower mill rate for property owners. Last year's rate per $1,000 of property value was $9.52. This year the mill rate dropped to $9.34, close to a 2 percent decrease.

According to information provided by the district, on a home valued at $150,000, school tax will be $1,401, a drop of $27 over last year. For a $200,000 home, the school tax will be $1,868, a drop of $36 over last year. On a $300,000 home, the school tax will be $2,802, a drop of $54 over last year. These numbers do not include any property tax credits like the school levy credit, the "first dollar credit" or the lottery credit.

The school district budget increased by almost $3.5 million over last year from $50,123,869 to $53,620,736. The good news is that state education aid also increased by almost 13 percent, from $23,544,706 to $26,585,323. That number reflects a 1.24 percent increase in student numbers for the district.

Included in the budget are new staffing costs, an increase in health insurance premiums and a loss of $118,000 in federal funding due to sequestration. It also includes $360,000 in safety and security improvements at district buildings, $177,000 for studies and estimates at the County UU property and information technology services improvements of $215,000.

District Direction of Financial Services Tim Erickson presented the budget and the tax levy. He also reported that the district's general fund balance after expenditures sits at around $14 million, or 26 percent of the total budget amount. That balance is within the district policy guideline of $25-30 percent of the budget amount. That excludes money already allocated from the fund balance to pay for costs related to addressing the secondary space needs at both the middle and high school.

Erickson also pointed out that again this year the district levy is approximately $13.2 million under the levy limit allowed by the state. Hudson's under levy has been among the largest in districts across the state for the past five years This year it will be the largest under levy in the state, accounting for approximately 20 percent of the total under levy from all the other school districts across the state.

Hudson also finds itself at the bottom of the pack when it comes to total educational costs per student. At $9,518 per student, the Hudson School District's rank of 367 is the lowest of the state's K-12 school districts.

There were no questions from the audience about the budget or the levy. The levy was approved by voice vote with a small minority voting no.

At the regular school board meeting held just prior to the annual meeting, school board members reviewed and voted on the proposed budget and levy. Voting yes were Jamie Johnson, Tom Holland, Lynn Robson and Dan Tjornehoj. Voting no were Brian Bell, Bruce Hanson and Sandy Gehrke.

Prior to the budget presentation, Superintendent Mary Bowen-Eggebraaten presented a list of "unprecedented results" district staff and students achieved in the 2012-13 school year. They included: 90 percent of all elementary students reading at or above grade level.

--significant improvement in standardized test scores by Hudson Middle School students.

--2013 ACT composite score of 24, the first time Hudson has achieved that.

--113 Advanced Placement scholars and the third consecutive year the district has made the honor roll of the National Advanced Placement College Board.

--three National Merit Scholars and one National Merit Finalist, a Presidential Scholar, a Graham Youth Art Award winner and four Big Rivers Conference Athletes of the Year.

--Max Hanson, elementary school counselor of the year, Sharon Kaltenberg, school nurse of the year, Peggy Eller, food service director of the year and Adam Kowles, Big Rivers coach of the year along with Herb Kohl Foundation fellow Pam Morrison, and Connie Root, one of 50 "Directors Who Make a Difference" nationally.

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