Saturday, October 13, 2012

11th Hour: Unsettling News on Equalized Values front.

Some potentially troubling news came out late this week.
Final fall equalized values were released (remember, that is the denominator) in the mill rate equation; the proposed tax levy is the numerator.  If the denominator is reduced, the mill rate goes up.

We've all seen the new construction, so we were all anticipating at the very least a small INCREASE in the equalized values.  The City of Sun Prairie was using 1% growth in its estimates.  The school district stayed with 0%.  It looks like the 0% is at least 1% closer to actual.

The city of Sun Prairie property values are actually DOWN 3.7%.  Who would have guessed that?

What's the Bottom Line?
Barring any last minute increase to equalized aid from the state, what this means is that our $2.4M windfall and tax levy decrease have evaporated as quickly as out water this part summer.  It's gone baby, gone.  We could be looking at a 2% tax levy INCREASE of as much as 1.7-2.0%.   The acrtual mill rate would now project to $12.84 (district-wide) instead of $12.44.

So...we may as well toss those annual meeting booklets (nice cover!) into the recycle bins.

Could the news get worse...or better?
Guess what?  The final final state aid amounts will not be released until sometime Monday morning.'s POSSIBLE that the drop in property values could land us a little more state aid to help mitigate this sudden melt-down in our tax picture.

Doesn't it seem just a teensy bit disingenuous to have a meeting the very evening (this Monday night, October 15) that final numbers come out?  Gee...give us a few minutes to digest the sudden bad news and then ask us to vote...right?  Maybe those 2% increases aren't looking like a very good move anymore?

Here's the hard part.  Like it or not, we have to agree at this point that the proposed tax levy, $46,437,308 is the amount necessary to operate and maintain our schools.  So we will need to suck it up and vote to support that levy.

You see, this is likely what Phil Frei has been trying to communicate (but has not done as well as one could).   We have to focus on the amount of dollars necessary to operate and maintain our schools.  But...we also have to be able to trust that the proposed expenditures do not include excessive fluff or unwarranted expenditures.

The rest...the tax levy and mill rate are out of Phil's hands.  From the expenditures budget, we subtract out the revenues received from federal,  state and other sources.  What remains must come from local sources (our wallets) ...the tax levy.  We had a nice surprise of a rather hefty, unexpected increase in state aid.  Now that appears to be washed away by a large decrease in property values.

So, suck it up, Chuck.  It's all for the children...right?