The 2020-21 annual budget for the DeForest Area School District was unanimously approved by the school board at its meeting on Monday, Oct. 26, along with a tax levy of $34.5 million.

School officials have been waiting on final numbers from the state regarding aid since the board’s last meeting Oct. 12.

“A few of the last pieces have now come in,” said Kathy Davis-Phillips, director of business and auxiliary services for the district. “Now we can move forward with our fiscal obligations and get the information out to our municipalities.”

The latter needs to be done by Nov. 1.

The tax levy was not too far off of earlier estimates, said Davis-Phillips. A budget draft presented to the board in June included an estimated tax levy of $36,061,797.

Included in the budget presentation at the Oct. 26 meeting was a mill rate of $11.63 per $1,000 of equalized value, which is actually a penny less than last year’s figure, according to Davis-Phillips.

There was an increase of $19,000 over previous estimates for state equalized aid due to the district.

Davis-Phillips did note that the $147,000 amount for private voucher school contributions was up $80,000.

“I’m not sure if that’s something unique to the pandemic or if it’s some kind of trend,” said Davis-Phillips. “That creates a little bit of a mystery for us.”

For the district’s general Fund 10, revenues are $45,968,006, compared to expenses of $46,586,670. That creates a predicted deficit of $618,664, which Davis-Phillips said was due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Davis-Phillips explained that came from spending on items such as technology for virtual learning, extra cleaning and more professional development time to deal with changes brought about by the coronavirus. The district will use a matching amount of $618,664 from its reserves to cover that shortfall.

A report on the budget included a long-range forecast, which assumes the current situation continues for revenue and expenses. The forecast anticipates possible deficits for the next four years ranging from $972,758 for 2021-22 to $4,265,768 for 2024-25.

Unknowns over what the state’s next biennial budget will be and the district’s enrollment go into the planning. DeForest’s enrollment declined for the first time in a while this year. It is down by 71 students, although school officials have said they believe 2020-21 is an outlier because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It looks pretty scary,” said Davis-Phillips. “It’s hard not to be shocked by these scenarios.”

Davis-Phillips said she pulled back on the enrollment numbers just to be cautious in creating the forecast. She said she hopes enrollment will go back to the increases the district had seen prior to this year, which would result in more per pupil state aid for the district.

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