The annual meeting for the School District of the Menomonie Area (SDMA) will be held in the tiered lecture hall at Menomonie High School at 6 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 27. The SDMA is one of nearly 400 Wisconsin school districts that will be hosting an annual meeting this year.
According to state statute, every common and union high school district is required to hold an annual meeting at which district electors are able to provide input and vote on specific items described in state law. While the school board is charged by statute with the care, control, and management of the property and affairs of the school district, this charge is subject to the authority vested in the annual school district meeting (Wisconsin Association of School Boards, 2018).
The details of school finance in Wisconsin can be confusing, but there are a few key components that can make it easier for the general public to understand the school district’s budgeting process. The fiscal year in Wisconsin school districts runs from July 1 to June 30. During the preceding school year, the school board and school district staff will develop a preliminary budget on which many decisions for the following school year will be made.
Since most of the school district’s budget is designated for staffing, much of the budget is determined when contracts are issued in the spring. At the annual meeting, the public has the opportunity to provide input on the school district’s budget and operations. In October, the school board is charged with approving a final budget and setting the annual tax levy.
Any major budget adjustments during the year are approved by the board and published for electors. The annual audit is then completed during the summer/fall and made available to the public before Jan. 1 of the following year.
As with all areas in the SDMA, school officials continue to emphasize responsible decision-making and planning for the future when considering school district finances. Despite uncertainty with the next biennial state budget, district leaders have worked to balance the budget, while prioritizing services directly impacting the classroom.
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Under the school board’s direction, the district continues to update a 30-year capital improvement plan for keeping our school district facilities and systems functioning in good repair without relying on the hope of a future referendum.
For the second year in a row, the school district’s self-insured medical insurance fund continues to maintain an adequate balance without needing to increase premiums, and the district was able to make another year-end budget transfer to a trust set up to fund anticipated expenses for future retirement benefits. These budget transfers not only reduce the district’s unfunded liability for local retirement benefits, but also increase the amount of state aid that will be received by the SDMA during the following year.
Preliminary budget figures indicate that the 2018-2019 budget will be balanced, with both revenue and general fund expenditures set to increase slightly. The tax levy for school district operations, debt service, and community service is projected to be $17,420,773, an increase of 1.07 percent compared to a tax levy of $17,237,167 for 2017-2018.
State revenues are projected to account for 58 percent of the total budget in 2018-2019, which is also a small increase over the previous year. The projected tax rate for 2018-2019 is $9.76 per $1,000 of equalized value, which would be an increase of $0.11 from the actual mill rate of $9.65 a year ago.
At this time, an expected increase in district property values has not been factored in, so if reported property values continue to trend upward, it is likely that the mill rate will actually decrease. It should be noted, however, that individual tax rates will vary for each property owner depending upon where one lives and the full or partial values of the assessment.
All school district stakeholders are invited to attend the annual meeting, but there is no need to wait until the meeting to share your questions, concerns, or suggestions related to the operations of our school district. The school district has procedures in place to encourage public participation in decision-making processes, and I invite you to visit the Administrative Service Center (ASC) or contact me at 715-232-1642.
More information about our schools can be found on the school district website (www.sdmaonline.com), on Twitter (www.twitter.com/sdmaonline) and on Facebook (www.facebook.com/menomonie.schools).
Joe Zydowsky, Ph.D. is the district administrator for the School District of the Menomonie Area.