Influx of state aid allows officials to keep tax levy flat

In a year where good news is scarce, the Burlington Area School District recently gave its residents something to look forward to – it’s lowest property tax rate in the past decade.

The School Board on Oct. 26 finalized the 2020-2021 budget featuring a steady tax levy and a lower mill rate.

The mill rate is $8.60 per $1,000 of equalized property value, according to district officials. This is 55 cents less than the 2019-2020 rate of $9.15 per $1,000 of equalized property value and the lowest mill rate in the last decade.

An influx of state education funding is among the reasons behind the drop.

“The total budget from year to year generally stays about the same but what changes is how much comes from the state or local funding,” Superintendent Stephen Plank said in a district news release.

This year, the district received an increase in state funding, which contributed to its ability to keep the tax levy flat, officials said. Increasing property values across the district – another key factor in the bottom line for taxpayers – led to the decline in the tax rate.


The BASD budget

The district’s annual budget is $45,897,525 for the general and special education funds, according to officials.

The school board presented a preliminary budget at the annual meeting on Sept. 14. District residents approved this budget in a 140 to 41 vote.

The budget can’t be finalized until three factors are confirmed, officials said. First, student enrollment totals are tallied on the third Friday of September. The district’s revenue limit full-time-equivalent enrollment was determined to be 3,227. Second and third factors are the state general aid and equalized property values which were finalized in October.

While preparing this year’s budget, the School Board approved changes in health insurance benefits, added a wellness program, and budgeted for potential cost-of-living-based salary increases.

In addition, the district has worked on other initiatives to reduce fixed costs. For example, installing LED lighting has reduced energy costs. While these initiatives help balance the current-year budget, they also build in some long-term strategies toward cost-savings and staff retention, according to officials.

To read the full story – including how COVID-19 factored into the budget – see the Nov. 5 edition of the Burlington Standard Press.