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Muskego School Board approves flat levy

State aid projections better than expected

Aug. 21, 2012

Muskego - Residents' tax bills for the Muskego School District could be similar, in year-to-year comparisons, based on information shared by officials Monday.

The Muskego-Norway School Board voted in favor of a draft version of the 2012-13 budget in preparation for publication to the community. The draft document calls for a zero percent increase in the property tax levy, the district's largest source of income.

Keeping the levy flat is in contrast to the 5-percent bump that had been proposed by administrators this spring. Since that discussion, officials learned Muskego-Norway is receiving more state aid than initially anticipated.

While going over some of the line items at Monday's board meeting, Scot Ecker, director of business services, had proposed reinstating about $700,000 toward the district's building budgets.

Ecker cited the anticipated $18.1 million in aid as a reason for allocating additional dollars to facilities. Although the projection is $200,000 less in state aid than Muskego-Norway received in the 2011-12 school year, it's a far cry from the $1.5 million decrease that had been anticipated.

While the spending allocation toward facilities would not impact the levy with an increase or decrease, the board, on a 5-2 vote, decided against the additional building allocations.

Board member Eric Schroeder said the district should not be spending additional money just because it is available. He successfully led the motion to keep the building budgets at their original $1.15 million figure for the upcoming school year.

But Ecker said the trim to facilities expenses - a maneuver that has been in place the past several school years as belt-tightening has ramped up - has been out of necessity. The additional funds, he said, would be put to good use.

"We had a menu of options, and this is what tasted the best," Ecker said in reference to cost-cutting scenarios. "It was the best of any of the worst options."

While the majority of the board was in favor of Schroeder's suggestion, there were differing opinions.

Restoration, not an increase

Board President James Schaefer was one of the two dissenters. Schaefer said he believed the money could have been put to good use.

"This is money that could go directly into buildings and directly into classrooms," Schaefer said. "I find it terribly ironic. This is a restoration, not an increase (in the levy)."

Although there are a number of variables that come into play, Ecker said he believed most residents should not have to pay additional money on the school portion of the tax bill when it arrives in the mail late this fall.

Enrollment determines aid

While a draft version of the budget is about to be published, the document is still subject to further revisions as the school year gets under way. A student enrollment count taken Sept. 21 will ultimately determine how much money Muskego-Norway will receive in state aid.

Residents will formally have an opportunity to offer input on the budget and levy at the district's annual meeting at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 29 at Muskego High School, S8750 Racine Ave.

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