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Seneca School Board approves preliminary budget
Seneca School District

SENECA - It was budget review time for the Seneca School Board on Monday night.

When it was over, the board had approved a preliminary balanced budget for the 2017-18 school year with $4,251,457 proposed revenue and  $4,251,457 in proposed expenditures.

The preliminary budget resulted in a proposed property tax levy of $1,634,485 and that would result in a mil rate of 10.68 on the district’s equalized property values. The anticipated tax levy is $195,233 less than the tax levy limit.

This means for the average property taxpayer that they will pay $10.68 for every $1,000 dollars of equalized property value. So a house with an equalized property value of $100,000 would pay $1,068 per year in taxes to the school district as a part of their property tax bill.

However, this is based on lots of estimates since the state budget is not approved at this point. In explaining the preliminary 2017-18 Seneca Area School District preliminary budget, district administrator Dave Boland told the board about how some of the figures were estimated. Lots of expenditures were averages for the past two budget years with any new information about costs factored into the numbers.

Revenue was even trickier since there has been lots of discussion in the state legislature about what is in or out of the budget.

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction used past year’s of per pupil aid and estimated school populations to get the schools an estimate on what they might expect in general state aid in the coming school year. Those estimated figures of state aid are mandated by state law to be done by July 1. Unfortunately, there was little solid information on school funding in the current state budget available at that point. The DPI met the deadline for the general aid estimates, but cautioned that they were only estimates. At that point, DPI was estimating Seneca’s general state aid to decrease by $18,287 from the previous year.

In discussing Seneca’s 2017-18 preliminary budget on Monday night, the district administrator issued some warnings of his own.

“They don’t have a state budget,” Boland said. “The situation is more in flux than it ever has been at this point in the year. There is more change possible than any other year.”

Governor Scott Walker offered to make seven line item vetoes to convince four holdout Republican state senators to vote to approve the state budget, Boland told the board.

“Even today this is changing,” Boland said.

While general state aid may decrease, the per pupil increase in categorical aid to $450 per student appears to be in the budget at this time. This increase if finalized could offset decreases in general aid. Whether the per pupil categorical aid increase will remain in the final budget bill signed by the governor is not certain.

Categorical aid in Title 1 and Title 2 funding appears to be decreasing, the district administrator explained.

Closer to home, Boland outlined some budget impacts in the district. One thing is the insurance rate went up by 3.5 percent after seeing no increase in the previous year’s budget. The wages of district employees were increased by two percent as well.

Final numbers on the inbound and outbound open-enrolled students is also not known at this point.

Based on recent counts it appears the district may have an enrollment of 303 down slightly from the previous year. However, the figures from the all-important Third Friday Count taken on Friday, Sept. 15 have not been finalized, Boland cautioned.

Despite the uncertainty, the board, at the administration’s request, passed a preliminary budget, which was created based on the best information available.

The preliminary budget approved by the board on Monday may not be the budget that is brought to the annual meeting on October 18 after more information becomes known, according to Boland.

In other business, the Seneca School Board:

• re-scheduled the next board meeting to October 23 so it would be held after the annual meeting

• reviewed the 2016-17 budget, which will be presented at the annual meeting

• learned an air conditioner at the school had stopped working and needed to be replaced at an estimated cost of $3,000

• were informed Homecoming was scheduled for the first week of October

• selected two recipients for the Seneca Area School District Monthly Recognition Award—the school’s janitorial staff for the work they did readying the school for resumption of classes earlier this month and Brian Reynolds for his work teaching staff and students CPR and the use of defibrillators

After meeting in closed session, the board reconvened in open session and approved posting .6-FTE paraprofessional aide and a middle school basketball coach.