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Glendale-River Hills to increase budget, levy

Conversation beginning on distant referendum

Aug. 27, 2013

Glendale — For the first time in years the Glendale-River Hills School District will increase its annual budget, and will also increase its tax levy for the coming 2013-14 school year.

According to a budget passed by the School Board after the district's annual budget hearing last week, the 2013-14 district budget, tax levy and tax rate all increase by 2.3 percent. The resulting tax rate of $7.48 per $1,000 of assessed property value means a district resident with a $200,000 home would pay $1,496 to support the district in the coming school year — $32 more than last year.

Driving the budget increase is the hiring of four new teachers throughout the district. The levy increases due to an increase in the state-mandated revenue limit and an increase in resident student enrollment, Superintendent Larry Smalley said.

Strong financial position

In the recent 2012-13 year the district is estimated to have run a $400,000 surplus, Smalley said, and district administrators expect to run a similar $300,000 surplus in the coming year. If the district hits that surplus, cash reserves will top the 15 percent mark with relation to overall spending, which was one of the district's main goals when seeking a four-year, $600,000 referendum in 2011.

"We're really strong financially right now," Smalley said. "Many districts aren't saying that. We are in really good shape right now."

Smalley added that the district's solid financial footing led to a record low interest rate of 0.44 percent on the annual short-term borrowing which allows the district to pay its bills between the beginning of the school year and tax collection time in the winter.

"I've never seen that in my lifetime," Smalley said. "That goes back to having a board that understands school financing, doing it the right way."

He added that district administrators and the School Board may bring a continuation of the $600,000 annual referendum — which expires at the end of the 2014-15 school year — before district voters in the November 2014 election.

Smalley said the added referendum funds "really saved" the district in 2011, when Gov. Scott Walker's budget repair bill — commonly known as Act 10 —necessitated deep budget cuts in public schools across the state, and has allowed Glendale-River Hills to build itself back up financially since then.

More help from referendum?

School Board President Bob Roska said in an interview Tuesday that a number of factors like ongoing student enrollment trends, state funding, the district's financial health and its ability to offer programs will all come into play when making the decision to bring the referendum before voters.

"That sort of analysis is going to be done to decide whether a referendum is part of the picture," said Roska.

Though recent increases in state funding are appreciated, Roska added, the district is still digging itself out of a hole from the large cuts to state aid included in Act 10 — cuts that have made local taxpayers pay more if they want the same quality of education they had pre-Act 10.

"If they had gone a different direction on that it would have been a big swing factor on whether local taxpayers would be asked to provide even more support than they do right now," Roska said. "More and more support is being expected from local municipalities, and that's clear from Madison."

BY THE NUMBERS

2.3

percent increase in district budget, tax levy and tax rate

4

new teachers, the driving force behind the budget increase

$7.48

tax rate, per $1,000 of assessed property value

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