Athens tax hike
School board approves 18 percent school levy increase
The Athens Board of Education on Monday approved an amended school budget with a $2,243,861 school tax levy for the 2019-20 school year, an 18 percent increase over 2018-19.
A person owning an average $180,000 home in Athens School District will pay an extra $292 in school taxes as a result of the tax increase. The school district’s tax mil rate will be $10.21 in 2019-20, which is a $1.28 increase over the $8.93 mil rate in 2018-19.
Electors at the district annual meeting approved a school tax levy of $2,393,628 –a 26 percent increase– on Sept. 16. It was estimated the school district’s tax mil rate would increase $2.10 to $11.03 in 2019-20.
Since the annual meeting, the school district has received its final numbers from the state to determine the actual property tax levy. These include a third Friday count of students in September, the amount of per pupil state aid and total property valuation. School board members voted 7-0 during Monday’s regular monthly meeting to approve both the 2019-20 budget revisions and certification of the tax levy.
Jeff Mastin, Athens schools superintendent, confirmed on Tuesday the factors of falling state aid, a revenue cap inflation adjustments and St. Anthony Catholic School participating in the Wisconsin Private School Choice Program this school year will cause an increase in taxes for residents in the Athens School District.
Athens School District’s total property valuation has increased $7,092,336 or 3.2 percent in 2019-20 over 2018-19. The school district’s property valuation is $219,789,150 in 2019-20. It was $212,696,814 in 2018-19.
“When the assessed values came back the properties in our school district were valued at $3 million more than what we anticipated, so because of this we were able to tax a higher rate and still be able to receive the number of dollars we budgeted,” Mastin said at Monday’s meeting.
He said Athens School District is feeling the pain of needing to financially help the Marathon County special education consortium. The consortium, he said, faces a $700,000 budget shortfall in 2019-20. Mastin said the Athens School District will spend $120,000 on the shortfall, including $60,000 of this amount in 2019-20 and then the additional $60,000 in 2020-21.
Mastin said Athens School District has utilized Marathon County’s special education since its inception, but he said the school district should begin to explore cheaper options for special education services.
“We are going to need to look at what Marathon County special education offers us and how we can continue doing business in its consortium, and we’ll be meeting with their leaders to figure out a solution in the future,” Mastin said. “CESA 9 also offers some of the same special education services that Marathon County has, so we do have some other options but there’s been strength in the consortium over several years.”
He said seven school districts used to be in the Marathon County special education consortium, but one of them pulled out a few years ago.
“We would want to talk to that school district that left the special education consortium to find out what their checks and balances of that decision were before we make a decision,” Mastin said. “We are very much relying on those other five schools in the special education consortium, because if we decide to stay and they decide to leave, then it puts more pressure on us to make a different decision on where we should contract for special education services in our schools. All six of us schools in the special education consortium will need to decide together on whether we’ll stay in the consortium.”
Mastin said Athens School District will see an increase in its cost associated with St. Anthony Catholic School participating in the Wisconsin Private School Choice Program this school year.
“We found out our voucher dollars that are going out of the school district actually increased another $1,000, and there is talk of the possibility of there being a second voucher school in the future,” he said. “Athens School District will then lose $153,000 the following school year on top of the $153,000 we are losing this year, so that’s another financial concern we need to consider.”
Trinity Lutheran School in Athens held a Wisconsin Private School Choice Program informational meeting for parents of its students last Wednesday. The meeting was to answer parent questions prior ro a Sunday vote on on whether the school should participate in the Wisconsin Private School Choice Program next school year. There is no word on the outcome of that vote.
In other school news:
_ The school board approved on the school district’s financial statement, as presented by administrative assistant Bev Braun, at Monday’s meeting. Athens School District began the 2019-20 school year with a beginning balance of $1,598,234 on July 1. Since then, the school district has received $692,615 in revenues and its expenditures have been $1,241,224. As of Monday, the school district has a balance of $1,049,625
_ The following are coaches the school district has hired for the upcoming winter sports seasons: Cohead wrestling coaches Dale Westfall and Jodi Gauerke, and assistant coaches Adam and Chad Ellenbecker.
Athens is still looking to hire a head middle school wrestling coach. Kyncaide Diedrich is the new Athens head girl’s basketball coach, taking over for her mother, Danielle Diedrich, who resigned following last season. Emily (Czech) Roessler will be an assistant coach, but the school district still needs to hire an additional girls basketball coach an a volunteer assistant. Jeff Haines will coach the girl’s eighth grade basketball team, Stafani Karl seventh grade and Tanille Hartwig sixth grade.
Co-head boy’s basketball coaches are Aaron Ellenbecker and Jeramie Penney, and Lucas Weiks is their assistant coach and head coach of the JV2 team. John Keefe, a new second grade teacher in the school district, is a volunteer assistant boy’s basketball coach. Tom Schaer will coach the eighth grade boy’s basketball team, Jeff Pittman seventh grade and Tony Schultz sixth grade.