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New Berlin school budget considers tax hike

But numbers can still be whittled down, superintendent says

June 11, 2013

New Berlin — A $62.2 million proposed budget for the 2013-14 school year that calls for a property tax levy increase of nearly 3.2 percent was presented to the New Berlin School Board on Monday.

The board could vote on the budget as early as June 24 and some form of the package will go before residents at the district annual meeting Aug. 12.

"We don't take these numbers lightly," said Superintendent Joe Garza, explaining that administrators will try to whittle them down more before the final budget is approved.

"Something we need to do is massage the numbers," said School Board member Tom David.

The proposed 3.2 percent levy increase comes after a nearly 6 percent hike this year.

But Roger Dickson, chief finance and operations officer, reminded officials that in the last 12 years, the levy fell eight times. It rose in three of the last five years.

Overall, he said, "The school Board has worked real hard to be good stewards," but it is getting to a point where the schools must ask for more tax money to meet educational expectations.

The proposed operating budget accounts for nearly $47.2 million of the proposed $62.2 million total budget. The operating or general fund budget is 3.46 percent higher than this year.

Playing a key role in that proposed increase is the loss of about $600,000 in state aid, Dickson said.

The proposed budget also includes about $7 million to start a major facilities upgrade. Dickson said that themoney would go toward energy-saving measures that would bring eventual savings. Another $1.75 million is proposed to be used for the most pressing non-energy projects.

The district has a massive list of maintenance items the schools, mostly Eisenhower Middle/High School, need and $7 million is just a start, he said.

School Board member Art Marquardt said now is the time to do projects because interest rates are low.

"We will not have a better market to get some of this work done," Marquardt said.

Helping pay for even more of those projects will be the more than $31,000 the district expects to get from the sale of the former Prospect Hill Elementary School. The foundation that has submitted an offer to buy the site has 60 days to decide whether close on the deal, Dickson said. The foundation will pay cash so financing isn't a problem, he added.

The former Prospect Hill School, on 9.14 acres at 5330 S. Racine Ave., was closed when Ronald Reagan Elementary School opened. The appraised value is only $23,000 because of the cost of tearing the school down, Dickson said.

NEXT STEP

WHAT: possible New Berlin School Board vote on 3.12 percent tax levy increase budget for 2013-14

WHEN: 7 p.m. June 24; annual meeting is Aug. 12

WHERE: New Berlin West Middle/High School, 18695 W. Cleveland Ave.

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