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Tomahawk school district receives estimated 78% increase in school aid funding

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The school district of Tomahawk is expected to receive 700-thousand dollars more in school aid funding for the 2023-24 year.

That’s a 78% increase from the year before.

The budget now stands at more than $1.6 million.

Other districts in the state have larger budgets than that, but Tomahawk had the second highest percentage increase this year.

When WXPR spoke with Tomahawk School District Superintendent Wendell Quesinberry, he repeatedly stressed how excited he was for this increase in funding.

In fact, Quesinberry said his office initially thought there had to be some sort of mistake.

“We knew we would see some sort of an increase. You know, it was, I think, a little bit of a shocker for us to see that we were the second highest percentage increase in the state when when the list came out,” said Quesinberry.

Schools get funding from two sources primarily. There’s funding supplied by the state and there’s funding that comes from a slice of property taxes in the district.

State funding for any school is decided by this school funding formula.

The amount that a school receives from the state is restricted by two factors.

First, there’s how much the state thinks the school needs for each student, which is based on inflation-adjusted district statistics from the 1993-94 school year. Critics have repeatedly called attention to flaws in this system, pointing out that funding gaps from 30 years ago haven’t changed. In fact, in 1994, when the 1993 spending statistics were used for this formula, differences in the individual districts’ financial behavior were not taken into account. Some districts may have been spending conservatively with the expectation that they would benefit from their frugalness later, which did not end up happening.

Then, there’s the number of students in the district.

These two numbers, the students’ population and state’s estimation of costs, are multiplied together to equal the ‘revenue limit’, or the limit of money the school can get.

As far as the property tax funding component, Tomahawk is considered a ‘property rich’ district. Their property values have increased significantly at a more rapid rate than the state average. Normally, that means that the state expects property owners to contribute more to school funding.

However, this recent funding change will come as a sort of tax relief to taxpayers in the Tomahawk district.

“Our overall tax levy this year will be approximately somewhere between 14 and $16 million,” said Quesinberry. “That's the portion of our budget that will be placed on our local taxpayers. This generalization aid says that 1.6 million of that will be subtracted right off the top and it will never, you know, it will never go to the levy. So it's not additional dollars that we received. It basically comes in the form of tax relief for our taxpayers.”

In future years, Quesinberry expects funding to stabilize at these new levels.

These numbers aren’t set in stone. Nothing will be finalized until October 15th when the district passes their budget.

Hannah Davis-Reid is a WXPR Reporter.
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