Elcho school district seeks more funds from voters
By Lisa Haefs
Special to the Star Journal
The Elcho school district is seeking additional funds from voters to maintain its education programs.
On Nov. 3, voters will be asked to approve an override of state-imposed revenue limits that will allow the district to spend $1 million above and beyond those limits for each of the next four years.
The vote comes four years after a successful $18 million referendum to construct a major addition to the facility. At the same time, voters approved spending $500,000 above state limits annually to sustain programs. That authorization ends this year.
According to District Administrator Bill Fisher, the board of education considered several options before deciding on the $1 million mark.
“There is no fluff in this proposal,” Fisher stressed. “These are the dollars that we need in order to keep operating and provide a quality education to our students.”
District figures indicate the $1 million request will not have a substantial effect on the mill rate. For this school year, property taxes for school purposes are dropping from $6.84 to $6.47 per $1,000 of equalized valuation, or $647 for the owner of a property valued at $100,000. If the referendum is successful, that will climb to $6.93 per $1,000, or $693 for that same piece of property.
That’s an increase of 46 cents per $1,000, but officials were quick to point out that it is still 41 cents lower than the school mill rate was just four years ago.
Fisher noted that Elcho, like many school districts across the state, must rely on revenue cap overrides to maintain operations in the face of dwindling state support. For example, Northland Pines in Eagle River is levying an extra $4.6 million a year and Rhinelander, $4.2 million.
Due to the quirky state aid formula, Elcho loses 15 percent of its general aid every year, and there isn’t much left. The amount the district can levy without relying on an override is also falling, dropping for $3.966 million in 2019-20 to $3.684 million for this school year.
“Basically, we run our district on property tax dollars,” Fisher said. “There is very little state support, only controls.”
The district will have a projected budget deficit of $164,000 for this year. Without the override, that will quickly climb to $1.2 million by 2022-23 and $1.449 million by 2024-25.
Absent a successful vote, the district will need to start borrowing money to meet operating expenses very soon and “will be out of money before the end of 2022-2023,” Fisher stressed.
Elcho has had almost a two-decade history of supporting school operations through revenue cap overrides. Current K-12 enrollment stands at 280.