Officials attempt to put budget actions in perspective

By Jennifer Eisenbart

Staff writer

If there is one thing that has frustrated Burlington Area School District Superintendent David Moyer throughout the last two months, it’s been what he feels is misinformation being circulated in the community.

“I think that there’s been misinformation about what the board has done – both in constructing this year’s budget and in past decisions it has made, specifically to try and keep the levy down,” Moyer said Tuesday.

As a result, Moyer and district officials released a six-page document – a list of frequently asked questions, or FAQ, if you will – Friday that they hope district residents will read before Monday’s special meeting.

The document outlines the 2011-12 budget and tax levy numbers, as well as outlining what the changes in state law – via Gov. Scott Walker’s Budget Repair Act – are and what the district is attempting to do to secure what aid is available.

“We thought it was important for people who come to the meeting to have accurate information to make an informed decision,” Moyer explained.

The document is available via www.myracinecounty.com under the headline “District Officials Make Their Case for Tax Levy” under Burlington news.

With school district officials facing an important vote of district residents Monday at a special meeting, Moyer wanted people to read the document – and be informed before they came to that meeting.

“I think the community needs to know what we are currently trying to do,” Moyer said. “I don’t want other people to inaccurately shape that message. I want the district to shape that message.

“I want people who care about Burlington and their public schools to have accurate information,” he added. “If people support the district, obviously, they should vote accordingly.

“If they think this is important, obviously they should come and vote. People need to make up their own minds about what they value and what they think of the district’s efforts to manage its budget.”

Among the items the FAQ addresses:

• BASD has declined to levy amounts ranging from $1.7 to $2.2 million annually in referendum-approved debt, which it has instead absorbed in its regular operating costs. The goal has been both to keep tax rates down and also to plan for stability over time.

• BASD under-levied by about $1.2 million in 2010. Due to declining enrollment, that decision resulted in the district permanently losing $386,009 in its revenue cap levy authority.

• The district reduced expenditures in 2010 by about $1.2 million, including closing Dover School and cutting 9.7 full-time equivalent staff positions.

• Wisconsin schools have typically received an annual increase of $200 more per pupil in each biennial budget. For the 2011-13 biennial budget, the state reduced the revenue limit for school by about $550 per student.

• The document also addresses a number of commonly asked questions, such as if the district is using the tools provided by Walker, how much the tax levy increase will cost and the impact of closing City TIF District No. 4.

BASD Business Administrator Peter Smet also felt the FAQ was an important step forward.

“I hope it helps explain what the district has been trying to do over the last several years and what we will be trying to do over the next several years,” he said.