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Riverdale balances budget despite state aid cuts
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At a sparsely attended annual meeting on Monday, approval was given for a 2011-12 tax levy of $3,144,552 for the Riverdale School District.
That's up slightly from the $2,841,111 tax the district levied in 2010-11.
As a result, the mill rate for the district will increase just over one mill from what it was a year ago, going from 9.82 to 10.87.
The total budget will exceed $9.4 million.
District Administrator Bryce Bird explained all of the factors that went into calculating the tax levy for the upcoming school year.
In the end, though, the district will have a balanced budget. That may be more difficult in the future.
"We've cut substantially, and squeezed people a lot," said Bird. "We've done a lot of juggling to keep things balanced. Two years down the road, we might be in dire straits, unless there's more state aid coming."
This year's task was more difficult than in past years, the biggest reason being that the district's state aid is being cut, just as it is for most schools around the state.
"This is the first time our revenue limit increase has been decreased," said Bird to audience of less than 10 people.
Bird was referring to the loss of $520.75 per pupil in the amount of state aid the district will receive for 2011-12.
In 1993, when the state revenue limits were put in place, a base cost per student was established. In the years since the revenue limits went into effect, the district has received an annual increase of approximately $250 per student.
This time around, not only will Riverdale not see that increase, but the district will get $520.75 less per student.
In all, the district will lose $350,000 off its revenue limit. Making matters more difficult for Riverdale officials, the state has also limited the ability of school district to levy taxes to make up that difference.
Clay Dean, a member of the school board, asked Bird, "That revenue decrease, is that just for this year?"
Bird said he thinks it'll be in place for the next two years.
The total 2011-12 district budget will be $9,401,783.
Breaking that figure down, the biggest portion of that comes from Fund 10, which adds up to $7,600,775, or 81 percent of the total budget. This is the fund that covers the general operation of the school district.
Actually, the Fund 10 budget is $295,830 less than last year's expenditures.
Bird said that were it not for the roof project on the high school, that fund would have been about $600,000 less.
The next largest piece of the pie, at $1,423,085, is Fund 20, which accounts for all special education costs and any monetary gifts donated to the district.
What's different this year is that Riverdale will have to transfer about $758,777 from Fund 10 to cover the district's special education costs, according to a budget narrative Bird presented on Monday.
Fund 20 is supplied by categorical aids and federal grant money. Taking the transfer out of the equation, Fund 20 expenditures account for 7 percent of the budget.
Among the other funds are 38 and 39, with Fund 38 being a non-referendum debt service fund that is used to play the State Trust fund loan the district entered into in order to pay off its Wisconsin Retirement System unfunded liability.
By doing this, Bird estimated the district saved almost $72,000 in interest that would have been charged at 8 percent by the WRS system in January. The current interest rate on the state trust loan is 5.5 percent, according to Bird. The district will make a loan payment of $74,602.
This loan will be retired in 15 years, according to Bird. Had the district not incurred the loan, there would be no end in sight for paying off that debt.
Fund 39 is the referendum-approved debt service fund. Money from this account is being used to pay off the addition to the high school made in 1995 and the new K-8 building in 1996. The fund, accounting for 8.8 percent of the total budget, includes $755,000 for principal and interest payments on the district's bonds.
The good news, according to Bird, is that the district "should have no building debt" by the spring of 2015 and "that money will not be part of the tax levy."
A couple of lesser funds, Fund 50 and its $354,700 take care of the food service program, and Fund 80 is the $27,000 Community Service Fund. This is used to determine ways to bring the community, and its different populations, together.
There were a number of areas where Riverdale saved some money.
Gov. Walker's state budget repair bill forced school district staff to pay into their retirement, which lowered the district's expenses by $181,000, according to Bird.
Plus, district staff must now pay an additional 4 percent for their medical and dental coverage.
Also, the district replaced two full-time custodians with five part-time employees, saving Riverdale $45,161.
"Doing things like that with support staff, when people leave, and replacing them with part-time people saves us some money," said Bird.
Whether that policy continues in the future depends on what enrollment is down the road.
Other areas generating savings include the heat exchanger installed at the high school. Bird said the districted expected 40 percent saving in fuel consumption from the heat exchanger.
"The readings they did support those projections," said Bird. "This is the first year we'll see it working the high school."
More savings will come from the beefed up insulation in the roof, which increased its R-value from 8 to 35.
Talking about the roof project at the high school, Bird explained how $300,000 from last year's budget was used to pay half the approximately $600,000 cost of the project. Then, there's the $281,000 for insulation, which is part of the increased tax levy. Next year, it won't be in the levy, said Bird.
In establishing the tax levy, district officials figured the 2011-12 revenue limits, including an energy exemption for the roof project, to be $6,662,909.
Adding up $4,237,058 in state aids, poverty aid of $49,098 and computer aid of $1,301, and removing the non-referendum levy from Fund 38 from the tax levy, the maximum levy amount for Fund 10 left is $2,300,849.
Over and above that are the referendum-approved debt service levy of $742,100 and the Community Service levy of $27,000. Combined, that amounts to a tax levy for 2011 of $3,144,552.
Following Bird's presentation and voting on a series of procedural matters, board members and audience members present voted for the tax levy. There were no dissenting votes.