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School budget plan shows mill rate drop

A mill rate of 8.06, a decline of 2.54 percent from the past year, is included in the 2006-07 budget proposal presented at the Ellsworth School District's annual meeting Monday.

The proposal for '06-'07 also calls for a total school levy of $6,675,461, an increase in dollars of 3.24 percent over '05-'06. Total revenue in the budget plan amounts to $15,772,781, while total expenditures are $15,932,258; the ending fund balance is placed at $2,825,463.

A related resolution about levying on the taxable property for the coming year a tax in the sum of $5,023,969 for general school purposes, $1,300,954 for debt service, $145,538 for short term debt and $205,000 for community service, referring to the aforementioned total tax levy of $6,675,461, was approved on a 19-0 vote.

Superintendent Dan Kaler emphasized the proposed budget is subject to change. Kaler indicated school officials can only forecast enrollment now, to be finalized with the third-Friday-in-September count, and property valuation in the district, which he expects to be somewhat different, once it's set.

Reviewing funds in the proposed budget, the superintendent said special education expenditures will be slightly less than the past year (down to $2,533,622 from $2,609,962) because of a change in arrangements for the program. Liability with the Wisconsin Retirement Association and several facilities improvements account for activity in the non-referendum debt fund. Indebtedness at the end of the year in the debt service fund will be lower, at $8,705,000, while higher costs due to fuel are projected in the food service fund.

The costs to operate the Klaas-Jonas Community Swimming Pool need to be examined as part of the community service fund, which also includes Panther Kids' Club and community education, he said. Presently, the levy is being increased to help cover the pool operation, but a decision will be necessary about continuing this approach or building a permanent structure over the pool or discontinuing its use in cold weather months, among options. In response to an audience question, he said the dome is to be put back up for this winter.

Kaler said in answer to another audience member's question that the district isn't receiving any help from the state with rising fuel costs, though these have impacted expenses significantly.

On identical votes of 19-0, annual meeting attendees approved a resolution fixing school board members' salaries at $1,300 each per year and another resolution authorizing the board to sell district property that's no longer needed. Board President Scott Helmer said an auction of excess equipment is likely next spring due to relocation of the schools' maintenance department.

Next year's annual meeting date and time were set for Monday, Aug. 27, 2007, at 7:30 p.m.