ELLSWORTH – Thanks in part to state education funding passed this summer using federal COVID relief funds to fund schools for the next two years, Ellsworth Community School District residents will also see property tax relief.
At a special Ellsworth School Board meeting Tuesday, Oct. 19, the board certified the tax levy for school district operations for the 2021-22 school year. This year’s levy decreased by 2.33% to $9,313,932 and the mill rate decreased by 9.34% to $8.06. The mill rate is the amount a taxpayer pays in school district taxes per $1,000 of property valuation. For example, a resident with a $200,000 house would pay $1,612 on the school district portion of their property tax bill.
“A very good, significant thing for district taxpayers,” said Superintendent Barry Cain at the Monday, Oct. 11 school board meeting.
Below is a breakdown of budget highlights (does not include budget in its entirety).
Revenue & other funding sources
Property tax levy: $6,630,009 School activity income (gate receipts): $50,000 Other revenue local sources (athletic and music fees, gifts): $76,000 State aid categorical (lower because couldn’t run summer school in 2020): $175,000 State aid general: $10,936,874 Other revenue (high-cost transportation aid and per pupil categorical aid, which was held flat this year): $1,627,974
Total revenue: $21,481,577
Expenditures, other financing uses
Undifferentiated curriculum (more teachers hired, staff, benefits, supplies, K-5): $$3,877,900 Regular curriculum (grades 6-12, pilot classroom furniture): $3,979,200 Vocational curriculum: $829,275 Physical curriculum: $506,700 Co-curricular activities (added feed for events, gate workers, etc.): $583,650 Pupil services (counselors, nurses, mental health): $932,450 Instructional staff services: $529,225 General administration (school board, legal services, superintendent): $325,525 School building administration (principals, secretaries, combined positions): $1,252,375 Business administration, maintenance, custodial (this year includes high school chiller): $4,394,250 Central services (phones, mail, postage, community survey): $65,500 Insurance: $215,000 Other support services (technology, CESA, retirement): $772,925 Interfund transfers (Fund 27, Fund 46, Fund 50, which includes special education, food service and capital improvements saving): $2,327,235 Total expenditures: $21,443,860
Special education (Fund 27)
Operating transfer from Fund 10 (after all state and federal resources, this is the district’s out-of-pocket costs): $2,239,575
Total expenditures: $3,532,867
Fund 46 (Capital savings plan for upcoming projects)
Ending fund balance: $1,350,000
Property tax levy
General fund: $6,630,009 Debt service fund (referendum debt, new elementary building): $2,197,541 Non-referendum debt fund: $336,382 Community service fund: $150,000
Total school levy: $9,313,932 (2020 levy was $9,535,774) Cain described the drop in the mil rate and levy as significant, and said this is the third year in a row the district is seeing a decrease. While this year’s state funding leaned heavily on federal COVID relief funds to fund schools and provide property tax relief, schools did not see an increase in revenue limits.
“Question is, what will the state do with funding at the next biennium?” Cain asked. “There will be no more ESSER funds.”
He said most of the money used to fund schools is not money spendable by districts, calling it “backload funding of education” using federal ESSER funds. The problem with using these ESSER funds to fund schools for the next two years is districts must be “handcuffed to the idea” of not creating “financial cliffs” that can’t be sustained in future budgets, Cain said.
School board salaries
At the annual meeting Oct. 11, district residents present voted 5-0 to approve the following annual school board salaries: Board president: $2,700 Vice president: $2,200 Clerk: $2,400 Treasurer: $2,400 Member: $2,100 District residents also voted to reimburse school board members for expenses such as travel, housing, mileage and food as it relates to school board business.
Third Friday enrollment
Each third Friday in September, school district across the state counts the number of students served in the district, which is a driver in the amount of state funding a district receives. The number is counted again in January and finalized in May. Cain said the enrollment is flat this year, but that summer school numbers popped back up.
The official Third Friday counts are as follows: Ellsworth Elementary School: 698 students Ellsworth Middle School: 382 students Ellsworth High School: 532 students St. Francis Elementary School: 72 students