Sunday, August 22, 2010


At every budget hearing, district administration likes to make a point of noting how much UNDER the allowable Revenue Limit cap the district spends.

Recently Phil; Frei indicated that Sun Prairie was "one of only four districts to set a tax levy this much under the limit".

Au contraire, mon frere!  [That's French for "We Don't Think so, Phil"]

Counterpoint #1:  First of all, you're close, but not quite accurate.  The DPI data show that FOUR districts levied further under the limit.  That would make us one of FIVE levying "that much under the limit"
see for yourselves with this link to DPI data in an Excel spreadsheet

Counterpoint #2: You can't have it both ways!  You can't slam the taxpayers for cutting the tax levy by $2M and then pat yourself on the back for levying 2.8M under the limit!  If the community didn't cut the levy FOR YOU, Sun Prairie would have been in a distant 24th place for amount under the revenue limit.

Face the facts, district administration members:  Last year was very unique year, but it was not a fluke.  Many school districts levied by large amounts under the revenue limit.  Some had it done for them by residents during their annual meetings, some did it all on their own, and some had a school board that forced their hand.

Some fun facts for you:
  • If you look at the underlevy amount as a percentage of the revenue limit, we ranked only 22nd of 425 districts last year.
  • Last year 7 districts levied $2M or more Under the revenue cap (2 in '07-08; 1 in '08-09).
  • Last year 18 districts levied $1M or more Under the revenue cap (7 in '07-08; 8 in '08-09).
  • Last year 31 districts levied $500K or more Under the revenue cap (10 in '07-08; 12 in '08-09).
  • Last year 142 of 425 districts levied SOME amount Under the revenue cap (111 in '07-08; 85 in '08-09).
Those are unadulterated, unspun facts.  Make of them what you will.  But we sense change.

Consider this:  Negative Tertiary Aid
It's boring and detailed, but the state aid calculations include 3 tiers.  The "richer" the district in terms of property value per student, the more likely that tertiary aid will be negative, actually reducing the amount of aid a district receives.

Sun Prairie is a "negative tertiary aid district".  BUT....and it's a big but....the more a district subject to negative tertiary aid levies UNDER the revenue limit, the LESS negative it's tertiary aid will be...meaning MORE money coming into the district.
 If a district's value per member exceeds the state guarantee at the secondary or tertiary tiers, negative aid is generated. Negative aid at any tier can reduce, or in some cases, eliminate a district's positive aid from another tier. A hold-harmless provision in state statutes entitles a district to receive at least the positive aid generated at its primary tier, regardless if the sum of all three tiers is a negative number. Districts not generating positive aid at the primary tier do not get any Equalization Aid from the state