Thirty-four Platteville Public Schools residents approved the school district’s 2015–16 property tax levy during the school district’s 25-minute-long annual meeting at Platteville High School Monday night.
The tax levy of $8.95 million will fund slightly more than half of the school district’s nearly $16.4 million budget, including debt service.
The 2015–16 budget is 1.11 percent less than last year, but the tax levy is 3.91 percent more than last year. With the estimated 2.38-percent growth in the school district’s equalized value, the mil rate is estimated at $10.85 per $1,000 assessed valuation, 1.12 percent more than last year.
The owner of a $150,000 house in the school district will pay an estimated to pay $1,627.50 in school taxes, up from $1,609.50 one year ago, if the third-Friday enrollment count Sept. 18, the October equalized property value numbers and 2015–16 equalization aid, reported Oct. 15, do not change significantly.
PPS superintendent Connie Valenza said the tax levy increase is the result of a reduction of almost $300,000 in state aid, the result of the equalized value increase.
Valenza said the school district’s mil rate was fifth highest among area school districts, while the school district’s spending of $11,612 per student was sixth highest.
Valenza listed numerous school district accomplishments and honors in the previous year that she said made PPS “the envy of the region, and stand out in Wisconsin.” That included the recent Newsweek America’s Top High Schools ranking (see story, page 1), the state Department of Public Instruction school report cards, Platteville Middle School’s nomination for the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program, Westview Elementary School’s being named a DPI School of High Progress, the school district’s being named one of the Best Communities for Music Education, and the April 7 referendum to approve the $16.6 million building project.
The annual meeting was chaired by Duane Ford, who retired as president of Southwest Wisconsin Technical College earlier this year.
Ford grew up in Tonica, Ill., where “taxpayers of that community invested in our community,” and said that unlike his brother, a farmer and subdivision developer, “I have contributed absolutely nothing to my hometown. … It’s clear to me that communities, like businesses, like colleges, like schools, are only as good as the contributions of the people that live in them.”
Ford said schools “need to understand work opportunities and entrepreneurship opportunities and the successes of the community in which they reside,” listing HyPro Inc., Avista, UW–Platteville and Southwest Health. “Do they talk about these opportunities, and the opportunity to work and contribute and stay in their hometown?”
Ford said Platteville schools need to encourage students to “come back, work here, start a business here,” instead of taking “the investment we have made in them to the betterment of some other place than their home town.”
The annual meeting was preceded by a budget hearing with more financial detail.
The school district is borrowing $15 million to fund the building projects, The 1997 building projects will be paid off this fiscal year, and the projects planned to be done in this school year will be paid off in the 2030–31 school year. Meanwhile, the school district’s pension fund debt, which was refinanced in December 2010, is projected to be paid off in the 2024–25 fiscal year.
The school district had an estimated general fund balance of almost $4.19 million as of the end of the 2014–15 school year, June 30. PPS business manager Art Beaulieu said the general fund balance totals about 25.5 percent of the school district’s budget. The fund balance funds “working cash” and capital improvements not funded by long-term borrowing, and prevents the need for short-term borrowing, Beaulieu said.