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No tax increase in 2019-20 budget

By Brianna Stubler Vogel 262-306-5046

WEST BEND — Good news for property owners in the West Bend Joint School District: the budget is balanced and the mill rate — read: taxes — will not increase from last year.

The district’s mill rate will remain $7.97 per $1,000 of assessed value. Thus the owner of a home valued at $203,000, for example, will pay $1,617.91 in taxes to the district.

There are several factors behind the district’s decision not to raise taxes.

West Bend is a low spending district, and was awarded an extra $299 per student in state aid for the coming year. It does have declining enrollment, but Communications Director Nancy Kunkler said this is primarily because students are graduating faster than they are replaced by new kindergarteners, not because they are choosing to leave the district.

“Class sizes at the high school are noticeably bigger than sizes at the elementary school,” Kunkler said. “So when we lost those 500 or so seniors in June and now only have 400-some kindergarteners, that’s most of the difference.”

District staff have not done a full analysis yet but are looking into the exact nature of the decline as fall enrollment numbers are taken.

There are 240 fewer students this year, but exactly how many of those students were lost to graduation versus how many enrolled elsewhere is yet to be determined.


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“And that trend of having fewer children is true here and across the state,” she said. “So all these things are factored into the equation but the bottom line is, the mill rate is staying the same and that’s really good news for our taxpayers, and very fiscally responsible of the district.”

Talks of revenue limits and how the number of students plays into that date back to 1993, when a new equation was created to attempt to put all districts on a level playing field. This school year, Finance Director Andrew Sarnow said, the state gave more money per child, increasing the revenue limit for West Bend.

“Early estimates say they will not give us much more money; in fact, it probably will be a little less,” he said. “So where does the rest of the money come from if they say we can have a little more money per child? Property taxes — which is why our levy is going up about seven percent.”

But property values are growing by about the same amount. This year, the district is worth almost $5.3 billion, which is an increase from the $4.2 billion of value last year. This is growth in size; new residences or businesses, with a very small increase from homes getting reassessed. If homes were reassessed for a higher value, then the taxation rate does not increase but more money is acquired through taxes. A homeowner’s taxes for everything, not just the school district, would also increase if this were true. But the seven percent increase came largely through growth and not reevaluation.

This is why the district is still keeping the $7.97 mill rate from last year, meaning a homeowner pays that per every $1,000 of equalized value.

And the mill rate can remain the same while still keeping a balanced budget. The district did not have a balanced budget last year — among its purchases was the $750,000 piece of land in Jackson for a potential new elementary school. Some cuts were made, including to staff, Sarnow said, but he is able to present a balanced budget for the 2019-20 school year.

“The debt was a sticking point, but we are a very low debt district, at a very low interest rate,” Sarnow said. “We are doing everything we can to pay it off as quickly as possible, and the board has been very sensitive about that.”

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