LUHS District tax levy dips
MINOCQUA – Property taxpayers in the Lakeland Union High School District will pay a bit less this year to support the high school’s 2016-17 budget, which includes both operational expenses and debt service payment for multiple energy-savings measures recently approved.
Just one citizen showed up for the district annual meeting Monday, Sept. 26th, so it fell to the school board members and mostly administration to approve the tax levy of $10,700,697. The levy is 2.52 percent less, or $276,470, than the previous year’s $10,977,167.
In turn, the mil rate (or tax rate) will drop by a similar percentage, resulting in a mil rate of 0.0187 or $1.87 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. The owner of property assessed at $100,000 will pay $187 to support the high school; an owner of property valued at $200,000 will pay $374.
Director of Business Services Greg Kopp used last year’s equalized valuation of $5,734,582,681 to calculate this year’s levy. The state doesn’t release its equalized figures until mid-October, so the levy and mil rate could change slightly. Last year’s district’s valuation dropped a negligible amount – just 0.2 percent.
Kopp set the general fund (Fund 10 for school operations) levy at $9,436,458, the debt service levy at $1,089,689, and community service levy at $174,550 to arrive at the $10,700,697 figure. The community service is largely centered on the indoor pool used by students and the public.
The debt service is to cover annual payments over the next 15 years for some $14.5 million in energy-savings measures at the school, including new boilers for heating, air handling systems and other repairs and upgrades. The district will pay $5.3 million toward those repairs this year, Kopp said.
(Speaking of efficiencies, the annual meeting held after the budget hearing lasted a total of two minutes – a minute less than last year’s event.)
The high school levy is only one of several that show up on the property tax bills. Adding their levies are the elementary school, Nicolet VTAE District, town and county.
The district’s 2016-17 All Funds budget is $18,938,025, an increase of 21 percent over last year’s $15,643,126. But the number is skewed because of the $5.3 million it will spend on energy-savings projects this year – part of the $14.5 million noted above.
The district this year issued a general obligation bond totaling $9,815,407 to finance those energy-savings measures.
Breaking it down
The general fund – making up the bulk of expenditures and revenues related to instruction and support services – shows its expenditures and other financing is at $11,234,507, a decrease from the prior year’s $13,383,721.
Other fund accounts, with prior year’s in parentheses: special projects -- $1,615,851 ($1,584,682); debt service -- $1,089,689 ($948,145); capital projects -- $5.3 million (0.00); food service -- $511,436 ($539,915) and community service -- $200,663 ($198,056).
The high school derives 86 percent of its revenue from the local property tax levy. State and federal aid and other revenue sources make up the difference. LUHS spends 41 percent of revenue on staff salaries and another 16 percent on employee fringe benefits.
As of June, the district’s fund balance stood at $8,049,534. Two years prior to that it was $10,575,041. The district has tapped into that fund balance for major renovation projects, such as for the auditorium. Kopp said the district needs to maintain a high fund balance to avoid short-term borrowing when tax revenues are reduced and in case high unexpected expenses are incurred.