Mark Taylor
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The Gardner Edgerton School Board voted Aug. 1 to publish what Business Director Eric Hansen calls a “bare bones” budget.
The school board will host a public hearing on the budget on Aug. 15 before voting on whether to adopt it.
The budget must be filed with the county clerk and state by Aug. 25.
“It’s going to be very, very tight for the next couple of years,” said Hansen, who added that revenue forecasts for the school district are bleak. “We have very little breathing room in this budget. It is bare bones. It is as lean as I have seen.”
The budget proposes a 1 mill increase in the property tax levy, from 81.54 to 82.54 mills. But based on declining averaged appraised home values in the district, the average taxpayer will pay about $36 less in school property taxes for the 2011-12 school year.
Hansen said the owner of an average $153,041 house – which fell in appraised value from $158,782 the previous school year, would pay about $1,452 in 2011-12 school taxes compared with $1,488 the previous year.
The school district is facing a 2.2 percent decrease in assessed valuation, following a 4.1 percent decrease in 2010-11 and a 5 percent decrease in 2009-10.
From 2009-2010, the mean appraised home value fell 2.5 percent from $162,771 to $158,782 in Gardner and declined 3.38 percent from $110,120 to $106,617 in Edgerton.
Despite drooping home values, the school district’s student population continues to grow.
Hansen said the district’s demographer is projecting a 4.5 percent growth spurt in 2011-12, but that number will not be finalized until headcounts and weighting factors are established on Sept. 20.
One of the “more significant components” of the 2009-10 and 2010-11 budgets, Hansen said, American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) federal economic stimulus dollars, of which the district received $1.712 million in 2009-10 and $440,424 in 2010-11, will no longer be available in 2011-12.
Likewise, state aid per-pupil funding is the lowest it has been since 2000. The district is expected to receive $3,780 per pupil in 2012, which equates to a $4.585 million loss in 2011-12.
Hansen estimated that as long as there are no more cuts in the base state aid during the 2011-12 year, the district’s general fund budget authority is expected to increase by $992,000 to $27.94 million.
“However, it is important to be reminded of the fact that in (2008-09) our general fund budget authority was $28.115 million, which illustrates the ongoing impact of the significant reductions in the base staid aid per pupil as approved by our elected officials over the past three years,” Hansen wrote in a memo to the board.
Hansen said a “positive note” in the 2011-12 budget is that the district’s Local Option Budget (LOB) authority is expected to increase by $409,609 – from $8.970 million in 2010-11 to $9,380 million in 2011-12 – as a result of Senate Bill 84, which “decoupled” the LOB from the general fund budget.
The district is facing $11.431 million in 2011-12 bond and interest payments, compared with $11.2 million the previous year.
However, staid aid for bond and interest has increased from 25 percent in 2009-10 to 30 percent in 2010-11 and to 35 percent in 2011-12.
“While this trend is a result of the downward trend in our assessed values, the shift will lead to an additional $611,845 in state aid,” Hansen said.  “In the meantime, we will obviously have to continue to analyze this fund and many any and all adjustments necessary and at our disposal in order to minimize future tax increases.”