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School tax levy dives in West Allis

Last year's spending cuts benefit this year's budget

Oct. 2, 2012

West Allis - For residents of the West Allis-West Milwaukee School District, the news couldn't be much better from a taxing standpoint.

Those attending the district's recent annual budget meeting heard that the school district's portion of the 2013 property tax levy would likely drop 6.7 percent. The main reason is a 12.1 percent increase in state equalized aid, said Deb Rouse, director of business services.

The aid increase is largely due to the district's proactive reduction in 2011-12 expenditures as compared to other school districts in the state, Rouse said.

The district will finalize its levy at the Oct. 22 School Board meeting.

Smaller levy in larger budget

The levy to support the current 2012-13 school year is projected to be $43,237,054, which is $3,106,959 less than the levy for the 2011-12 school year of $46,344,013.

The total budget for all purposes is $111,086,191, up 2.61 percent from last year's $108,262,727.

"We work on the budget process for almost a year, so we did know for some time we were looking at a favorable budget situation," said School Board President Sue Stalewski.

But she cautioned that the numbers are still tentative, as critical numbers still need to be confirmed from the state.

The board will factor in public input, the official pupil count from Sept. 21, the final equalized property values provided by the state Department of Revenue on Oct. 1, and the final state aid certification to be provided by the state Department of Public Instruction on Oct.15.

How state aid helps

More state aid means less of a burden on property taxpayers. Last year, taxpayers shouldered 42 percent of the general and special education funds that supply money for the schools' main operations. That will likely go down to 37 percent this year, Rouse said.

This year, those funds will increase 2.56 percent to a total of $100,686,169, compared with $98,176,212 last year.

The state will supply 41 percent of the general and special education funds this year, she said. The aid will come through equalization aid, per pupil adjustment aid, poverty aid, computer aid and Chapter 220 integration aid.

What public wants

The annual meeting typically draws few people, even when the budget isn't as favorable. But that doesn't mean the board doesn't get public input.

Stalewski said it's not hard for the board to get a feel for what people want. Board meetings are shown on cable television and board members get feedback by phone, mail and in person, Stalewski said.

In addition, board members are involved in groups outside the schools where they receive feedback, she said. For example, she and the superintendent meet monthly with city officials and board members participate in the West Allis-West Milwaukee Chamber of Commerce, the Rotary Club and other groups.

Even so, one of the School Board goals for the current school year is finding ways to engage people in the community, Stalewski said.

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