SDR eyes potential state aid increase
Estimates point to lower property taxes
By Eileen Persike
An estimated 79% increase in general school aid could mean lower property taxes for School District of Rhinelander property owners.
The Wisconsin Department of Instruction released its preliminary estimates of what the state’s 425 school districts may receive for the 2022-23 school year. SDR’s increase would be the third largest in the state, from $4.9 million in 2021-22 to $8.78 million in 22-23. This number does not reflect an increase in revenue limits, meaning it does not change anything for the district as far as revenue and expenses.
“The more aid we get doesn’t mean we have more money to spend,” said Bob Thom, SDR director of business services. “The more aid we get, the lower the taxes will be. So it’s going to reduce property taxes, which is great for everyone in the district.”
The biggest thing driving such an increase, if it holds, Thom said, is the district paying for the Hodag Dome two years ago.
“Rhinelander is in a position that the more money we spend, the less state aid we get,” Thom explained.
State aid is based on a hotly debated formula determined by property value. When a district has property values more than $755,000 per student, the state aid begins to diminish. The Rhinelander School District has $1.8 million per student in property value.
“Every dollar we spend, they take away state aid because they say you’ve got too much money, so every time you spend an additional dollar, [the state] is going to take state aid away,” Thom sad. “When we paid for that dome – that was $7 million in one year – they said ‘hey we’re taking away a ton of your state aid.’ They took away $5.4 million.”
The last time state aid was in the $8 million range for SDR was 2008. It is typically around $5 million, which is why Thom is hesitant to say the 79% increase will happen. The initial 2022-23 budget, in which Thom predicted the state aid will remain the same, will be presented at the July school board meeting. The annual meeting will take place in October, when the “real numbers” from the state are finalized; the tax levy is set as well as the tax rate.
Thom said it’s worth noting that the tax rate was at $11.69 per $100,000 of property valuation in 2017, and has gone down annually to the current $9.97.
“We will also pay off all our debt for the high school remodeling will be paid off in two years and that’s going to drop the rate even farther,” Thom said.
“We’re in a good spot. We continue to decrease taxes, and as long as our referendums pass, we’re doing fine money-wise. Hopefully things continue the way they are and Rhinelander is in a real good financial spot.”
In a press release, the DPI stated that general school aid payments to districts will increase an estimated $195.5 million in the coming fiscal year because of two factors; an increase of $188 million per the state budget and the decrease in the required Milwaukee Public Schools funding for the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program. For more information on school aid, visit dpi.wi.gov and search for general school aids estimate.