Estimates point to lower property taxes
By Eileen Persike
An estimated 79% increase in general school aid could mean lower property taxes for landowners in the Rhineland School District.
The Wisconsin Department of Instruction has released its preliminary estimates of what the state’s 425 school districts could receive for the 2022-23 school year. The SDR increase would be the third largest in the state, rising from $4.9 million in 2021-22 to $8.78 million in 22-23. This number does not reflect an increase in revenue limits, which means it does not change anything for the district when it comes to revenue and expenses.
“The more aid we get, the more money we have to spend,” said Bob Thom, director of business services at SDR. “The more aid we receive, 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 continues, Thom said, is that the district paid for the Hodag Dome two years ago.
“The Rhineland is in a position where the more money we spend, the less state aid we receive,” Thom explained.
State aid is based on a very controversial formula determined by the value of the property. When a district has property values above $755,000 per student, state aid begins to decline. The Rhinelander School District has a land value of $1.8 million per student.
“Every dollar we spend, they’re taking state aid away from us because they say you have too much money, so every time you spend an extra dollar, [the state] going to remove state aid,” Thom said. “When we paid for that dome – it was $7m in a year – they said ‘hey, we’re taking a ton of state aid off you.’ They took away $5.4m.
The last time state aid was around $8 million for the SDR was in 2008. It’s usually around $5 million, which is why Thom is hesitant to say that the 79% increase will occur. The initial 2022-23 budget, in which Thom predicted 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 state’s “real numbers” are finalized; the tax levy is fixed as well as the tax rate.
Thom said it’s worth noting that the tax rate was $11.69 per $100,000 property valuation in 2017 and has come down each year to $9.97 currently. .
“We will also pay off all of our high school renovation debt which will be paid off in two years and that will drive the rate down even further,” Thom said.
“We are well placed. We continue to lower taxes, and as long as our referendums pass, we are doing well financially. Hopefully things continue as they are and Rhinelander is in a very good financial position.
In a news release, DPI said general school assistance payments to districts will increase by approximately $195.5 million in the coming fiscal year due to two factors; an increase of $188 million by the state budget and decrease in required funding from Milwaukee Public Schools for the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program. For more information on school aid, visit dpi.wi.gov and search for the general school aid estimate.