Whitefish Bay School District taxes were already going down this year, but after receiving more state aid than anticipated, the district's portion of the tax bill will drop even lower.
The owner of a $400,000 home will now pay $94 less in school taxes this year, as the tax levy will drop $440,878, or 2.05 percent, from $21.5 million in 2010-2011 to $21.1 million this year under an amended levy adopted at a special School Board meeting Wednesday night.
The district was originally expecting taxes for those homeowners to drop $61 at the School Board's annual meeting, where residents adopted a tax levy of $21,267,910. But with the state Department of Instruction certifying $9.6 million in general state aid last week, the district has $200,682 more in its pocket than anticipated.
Given the additional money, the district put $33,715 that was originally going to be used from the fund reserve back in the coffers, so now the district will not use any reserve funds in this year's budget. The remaining $166,967 went directly to tax cuts.
Some school board members questioned whether the district budgeted too conservatively, and if the district should have increased its staffing plan, which calls for the reduction of less than one full-time employee. An enrollment report presented at the meeting showed 40 new students entering the district, and in the instance of advanced eighth-grade math classes, classroom sizes ranging from 20 students to 35 students. The average class size of eighth-grade advanced math classes is 29, while science and social studies at that grade level averaged 27 students per classroom.
"When I see classroom sizes get up around 27 or 29 in math, I think that's an issue," Whitefish Bay School Board member Marie Greco said.
School Board President Kathy Rogers added those specific classes are especially sensitive, because eighth-grade students are preparing themselves to enter high school.
When asked about projecting class sizes and staffing, Shawn Yde, the district's business manager, said preliminary classroom size reports and staffing projections are thrown off by students switching to different classrooms and other fluctuations throughout the school year.
Even though the levy decrease from last year is large, Yde said using any extra money for additional staff or other expenditures could turn out to be a liability in next year's budget process.
"Our state resources really remain uncertain for next year," he said. "We know we're only going to get a $50 increase in revenue cap authority for next year, so adding staff and knowing you're going to go into probably a tight budget year, this (budget and staffing plan) will provide a little flexibility.
"With state resources being so shaky, that may mean that next year we see a tax increase," Yde said. "We don't know until we see what state resources will be for next year."