School Tax Bill Increase Modest / Board Votes to Go Ahead with Leopold Elementary New School Design

School Tax Bill Increase Modest
Tuesday, October 26, 2004
By Lee Sensenbrenner The Capital Times
After a year of budget cutting and no referendums, Madison property taxpayers will see a modest increase in what they’ll pay for public schools next year.
For the owner of the house that perfectly follows the city’s statistical averages, rising in value this year from $189,500 to $205,400, the bill from the Madison Metropolitan School District will climb by $54. The total bill will be about $2,362, according to administrators’ figures.
For the few whose assessments did not increase, the school property tax will decline; the budget that the Madison School Board passed Monday cuts the tax rate from $12.18 to $11.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value, a 5.6 percent dip.
Overall, the portion of the $317 million budget supported by local property taxpayers rose by 3.16 percent this year, from about $196 million to $202 million. The year before, when voters approved a referendum, the same levy rose by almost 10 percent and school taxes for the average homeowner went up by $216.
Each fall, after counting official enrollment and making other adjustments, the Madison School Board formalizes the budget it set the previous spring. In this cycle, the board cut nearly $10 million worth of services that were squeezed out as cost increases pressed against the state’s cap on school spending.
Board member Ruth Robarts was the only dissenter in the votes to authorize the budget. She has criticized the administration for bringing up only parts of the budget for debate and scrutiny and she feels greater efficiencies could be found through fresh analysis and a more open process.
Other board members Monday praised the administration for a thorough and exhausting effort to come up with the best possible budget, given that nearly $10 million worth of services would be taken from schools.
“This is the budget of clarity,” board President Bill Keys said, adding that it underwent more scrutiny and was presented in more detail than ever before.
Leopold Elementary: On a unanimous vote, the School Board also moved closer Monday to building a new school on the city’s south side.
Their vote gives the administration permission to get architects’ designs for the school and to propose wording for the referendum that would fund its construction.
So far, the plan is to build a school on the campus that connects to Leopold Elementary. The old building would serve kindergarten through second grade and the new school would serve third through fifth grade, creating a campus with some 800 or more elementary school students.
The initial estimates put the cost for the project at roughly $11 million.
Leopold Elementary has been crowded for several years and many students who would be within its enrollment boundary are bused to schools on the west and far southwest side. Administrators say new subdivisions in the area are expected to further speed the influx of new students around Leopold.
“Not trying to build a school on that site would represent a break in faith with the Leopold parents,” board member Bill Clingan said. “This really is the only practical thing to do.”
Juan Jose Lopez, a board member who also spoke in favor of the school, brought up the two perennial concerns of trying to build a new elementary school. He said the district must find a way to convince those without children and those who live away from the south side to vote for it.
For the second group, there is, among other things, talk of districtwide boundary changes for elementary school enrollment.