School Board Oks Budget For 2004-05 / Board Voted Unanimously to Pursue Building a Second Elementary School

School Board Oks Budget For 2004-05
Taxes On The Average Madison Home Will Increase $54.
Tuesday, October 26, 2004
Doug Erickson Wisconsin State Journal
The Madison School Board passed a final budget Monday that raises taxes by $54 on the typical city home.
The owner of an average-priced home in Madison, now valued at $205,400, will pay $2,362 in school taxes for 2004, according to the district.
In 2003, the average home was valued at $189,500, and the school tax bill on it was $2,308.
The board passed a preliminary budget in May. Adjustments are made every October after fall enrollment and state aid become clear.
Monday, the board approved total spending of $317.2 million for the 2004-05 school year. Comparisons to last year are tricky because the district is including more than $7 million worth of grant money in this year’s total, said Roger Price, assistant superintendent of business services. In the past, grant money was not part of this total, he said.
Price said last year’s budget of $305.1 million compares to $309.5 million this year, an increase of 1.4 percent.
Of the total budget, $202.4 million will come from the local property tax levy, an increase of $6.2 million, or 3.2 percent.
The district’s tax rate actually declined this year by 5.6 percent because the total value of property in the district rose due to factors such as inflation and new housing growth. However, most homeowners will pay more school taxes because the assessed value of their homes increased an average of 8.3 percent from last year to this year.
This year’s tax increase of $54 on the average home is one-fourth of last year’s $216 increase. That’s because the one-year spending referendum passed by voters in June 2003 has expired. Also, board members cut programs and raised fees this year to make up a $10 million difference between what the district wanted to spend and what state law would allow it to spend.
District enrollment this year is 24,710, down 178 students.
The vote on the budget was 6-1, with Ruth Robarts dissenting. “There are efficiencies that we must look at, and I have very little confidence that we’ve done that with this budget,” she said.
Also Monday:
* The board voted unanimously to pursue building a second elementary school on the campus of Leopold Elementary, 2602 Post Road.
The South Side school has 678 students — the top end of its capacity. Many more students are expected in the next five years due to home construction in Fitchburg.
Monday’s decision allows the administration to work with architects on a preliminary design. However, the board has not yet authorized a referendum. That decision will come in a later vote. The board is strongly leaning toward putting the issue on the ballot in April.
The district’s Long Range Planning Committee recommended earlier in the evening that the board pursue the second school.
Because Leopold’s attendance area is a peninsula that borders other school districts on three sides, changing boundaries would be an impractical solution, said Superintendent Art Rainwater. The district would be forced to change the attendance areas of many schools, in some cases busing children past their neighborhood schools to get to schools on the Isthmus or the East Side that have space.
“The only way to look at it is that you wipe out all the current boundaries and start over,” he said.
The estimated cost of the new school is about $11 million.