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Nicolet board approves a nearly flat levy

Enrollment and revenue decrease while some costs go up

Aug. 28, 2012

Glendale - The Nicolet School Board and a handful of residents approved a minimal reduction to the district's levy for the 2012-13 school year at the district annual meeting Monday night.

The total levy comes in at approximately $17 million, down 0.06 percent from last year, and the overall budget is set to increase by about 0.9 percent to slightly more than $19 million.

The decrease is so slight, said district Director of Business Services Jeff Dellutri, that a resident with a $300,000 home would see a tax decrease of 81 cents in the coming year - though that estimate relies on a flat equalized value estimate of area properties, which likely won't be the case.

And, of course, a critical component of the budget presented by Dellutri to the board and attending residents was the five year, $2.15 million referendum which offsets decreasing enrollment and state aid.

"Without a referendum," Dellutri said, "this would have been devastating for us."

Balancing act

First and foremost, the district is working with an estimated enrollment decrease of 22 students in the coming year, and though state aid increased by $50 per pupil from 2011-2012 year, the district's 2012-13 revenue limit is calculated to decrease by about $244,000 - an amount that will likely change when actual enrollment is tallied later in the year.

A number of factors are contributing to the increased overall budget.

First, an overall 3 percent increase to district salaries, composed of a 1 percent increase to all groups, 2 percent increase to maintenance and custodial staff, and the net increase from replacement of three full-time teachers due to retirement (a savings) and the addition of a full-time math teacher, a part-time social studies teacher, and a 55 percent share of a communications coordinator who will service Nicolet and its three feeder districts.

Second, an overall benefits decrease of nearly 5 percent, the result of a 36 percent reduction in post-employment benefits expense due to plan changes, an increase in employee contribution to the Wisconsin Retirement System, and small increases to wage-based benefits like life insurance, long-term disability insurance, and Social Security.

Third, a flat facilities budget of $440,000, though the district has the authority to borrow money for an impending stormwater management overhaul, which is currently estimated at $1.5 million.

Rounding out the budget changes are an increase of nearly 2 percent in operating and equipment cost, composed primarily of increased spending on classroom supplies, liability insurance and worker's compensation, and student transportation.

Looking forward

The levy has taken a series of turns over the last few years, dipping 4.3 percent in the 2010-11 school year, increasing 5.3 percent in the 2011-12 as a result of the referendum. This coming year represents the beginning of what Dellutri said will likely be a smooth period so far as the tax rate is concerned.

"Obviously a lot of changes can happen," he said, "but we're looking to be very stable over the next four years, with either minor increases or minor decreases."

The decreases to the district's post-employment expenses will keep the district's fund balance at or near its desired 25 percent of budget expenditures, Dellutri said. Yet, as the added referendum funding comes to a close after the 2015-16 year, the district will need to find more places to trim the budget.

"The board is aware that we have a fiscal cliff looming when the 2.1 million dollar annual referendum runs out," board member Ellen Redeker said. "This requires vigilant review of our expenses now to put us on solid financial footing prior to 2016."

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