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Tax levy, mill rate down in Ellsworth school district budget plan

Both the property tax levy and the mill rate are substantially lower than the past year in the 2014-15 budget proposal presented at the Ellsworth School District’s annual meeting Monday.

At $6,563,091, the tax levy in the proposal is approximately 27 percent below the $8,380,852 in the 2013-14 budget, according to Superintendent Barry Cain. The mill rate (reflecting tax per $1,000 worth of valuation) for ’14-’15 is 8.39, down from 10.72 in ’13-’14.

Cain reminded adjustments to the latest budget plan will be made after certification of figures from the state is received in October. He also said possible approval of facility and security projects at the high school, middle school and Klaas-Jonas Community Swimming Pool, toward which the board began moving earlier Monday, could impact the plan.

The ’14-’15 budget proposal includes a revenue cap of $15,536,541 and state equalization aid to the district of $9,878,161.

Cain reviewed what he called “largely a balanced budget,” as the proposal now stands, line-by-line. It features a total ending fund balance of $4,151,220. Under revenues, the Student Achievement Guarantee in Education (SAGE) grant has been reduced to 0 because that program was eliminated locally. Title 1 funding to the district is down slightly.

The total revenues of $16,661,867 reflect a decrease of approximately $740,900 from those in the ’13-’14 budget, the superintendent said. He explained this is a result of the levy override, which had applied to budgets the previous three years, having expired and the earlier mentioned discontinuance of the SAGE program.

Examining expenditures, Cain said sixth grade has been shifted into the regular curriculum, causing that category to increase. Meantime, the physical curriculum category has decreased significantly due to the district’s Physical Education Program (PEP) grant ending and dropping a full-time position in physical education. As for an increase in co-curricular activities, he cited an alternative compensation plan as a factor, while business administration shows a decrease due to no new buses expected for purchase, part of budget cuts.

The total expenditures in the latest proposed budget are at $16,648,750, down by $660,885 from those in the ’13-’14 budget. Again, budget cuts and the lack of PEP grant funding were identified by Cain as major factors.

Discussing specific funds, he said the Non Referendum Debt Fund would be where the aforementioned facility and security projects would show up, if they become reality. The Food Service fund is on the verge of going “into the red,” a situation many districts face, aggravated by rising food costs, and “we’ll have to watch it,” he said. The Community Service Fund was broken down according to programs and revenues, meeting new regulations, which also specify no increase in the levy for these as well as a separate audit.

A bright spot found by Cain in compiling the latest budget plan are the prospects for general aid to the district, as one of the biggest influences on this is the previous year’s enrollment, which increased locally.

See the rest of the story in the Pierce County Herald print edition, on newsstands Tuesday.

Bill Kirk

Bill Kirk was editor of the Pierce County Herald in Ellsworth, from 1988 to February, 2015 and is now on staff as a reporter. He holds a bachelors degree in journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. He previously worked in the media distribution department at the University of Minnesota's Minneapolis campus and is past editor of The Tri-County News in Osseo, Wisconsin.

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