Alex Johnson

Correspondent

It appears the property tax rate needed to support the Burlington Area School District budget this year will be about five cents less than last year, Superintendent Peter Smet said Tuesday.

“That’s real early and unofficial,” Smet said, “so it could change.”

If the estimate holds, however, the tax rate reduction would come despite a tax levy increase approved Monday by district residents at the annual meeting held at Burlington High School.

The mitigating factor in this instance is growth in the district’s overall property value in the past year.

Smet said district officials recently received figures from the state that allowed a more up-to-date calculation of the tax rate. Given current estimates, the rate would be $10.53 per $1,000 of equalized property value – down from last year’s rate of $10.58.

The actual tax rate, however, won’t be set until the district receives final figures from the state this fall, Smet said.

During Monday’s annual meeting, residents voted 22-6 to approve the proposed tax levy.

The levy for the 2017-2018 budget is a 2.52 percent increase from the 2016-2017 budget, a number that BASD Business Manager Ruth Schenning said is important to everyone in the district.

“Every year the goal of our budget process is to balance the needs of all the stakeholders – taxpayers, community, staff, students. We are very cognizant of that.”

School Board President Jim Bousman reaffirmed Schenning’s comments, saying the goal of the School Board is to “feel the needs of the community and also the needs of the district.”

Schenning also presented information about the district’s general fund, saying that health insurance for staff is the largest fringe benefit for the district, although the costs have been on a steady decline since 2010-2011 school year – the year Act 10 was implemented.

During public comments, Vince Miller, asked the board “Since the bulk of the expense is salary and fringe benefits, I was just kind of curious how many different insurance companies were sought out to quote?”

Schenning said, “We do use a consultant to help bid it out every year, so we did ask … four or five different companies this year that we looked at. And pretty much every year, those are the same companies we go to.”

Smet also delivered the superintendent’s report as the district gears up for another academic year starting on Sept. 5.

Smet said the district expects an enrollment of about 3,055 students, although 59 percent of the state has experienced a gradual decline in enrollment between 2008-2009 and 2013-2014 school years.

Also noted in his report was Burlington School District’s dedication to a One-to-One learning initiative where every student from second to 12th grade receives a personal Chromebook computer to use throughout the school year.

Concluding his comments, Smet touched on the quality of district staff.

“Every year I’m impressed by the quality of the teachers and staff who are dedicated to serving Burlington’s students,” he said.

He also said the School Board will continue to meet for discussion on possible options for a planned facilities referendum next spring. The different maintenance and construction options for the district have been prepared by Plunkett-Raysich Architects.

Editor in Chief Ed Nadolski contributed to this story.

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