The Lake Mills Area School District continues to have a lower than state average mill rate. The school board approved the 2022 annual mill rate during a special meeting Monday night, which remained flat at $8.41 per $1,000 of equalized property value; the state average is $9.22 per $1,000, said Director of Business Services Tasha Naylor. However, people who reside in the district will see an increase for the school portion of property taxes as the equalized property value within the Lake Mills School District increased by approximately 10%.

The tax levy was set at $11,011,490, Naylor said. The levy is determined by the general fund, debt service – non-referendum approved, debt service – referendum approved, capital expansion, and community/recreation funds. The tax levy approved three months ago was $10,155,458.

Overall, the LMASD budget has a revenue of $28,732,176 and expenses in the amount of $27,546,187.

Compared to the budget approved by the electorate at the July annual meeting, there were several adjustments made based on actual numbers versus anticipated numbers. For instance, Naylor had hoped there would be a $100 per pupil increase in state aid, but the state budget did not include any rise in that aid for the next two years. On a more positive note, Naylor said at the annual meeting, the state aid estimate was 8,879,279; earlier this month it was certified the LMASD would receive $8,951,541 in state aid. Compared to last year, this represents an increase of 0.81%, or $72,262.

The business director pointed out the school district this year has seen a decrease in the number of students open enrolling into the district (95) and an increase in the number of students open enrolling out of LMASD (112), which is the opposite of what had been expected. Naylor said this created a decrease in anticipated revenues and increase in the expenses for the school year.

During the meeting there was a brief discussion on the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds. Naylor said the budget had been a deficit, but the business director was able to use some of that money to backfill the budget.

Board Vice President Amy Litscher asked if the ESSER funds could be used for only one-time costs or recurring costs. Naylor said some of the money used to backfill the budget deficit was being used for recurring costs including reading intervention staff.

District Administrator Tonya Olson said some of the ESSER money was used for one-time costs such as the greenhouse and technology.

“The literacy coach is a new hire and something we won’t be able to sustain with ESSER money because the legislators gave us no new money this year, that’s what they expected you to do (use ESSER money) to backfill the deficit,” Olson said.

“It’s almost like a catch-22 in some regards… moving forward two years if we don’t get any new money (from the state) we’ll have to look at the staffing and implications with that.”

School Board Clerk Dawn Delaney said the state legislature seems to be using the ESSER money as a tool to not provide any new funding for districts.

“Unfortunately, the state money could be used in a lot of different ways, but they were able to pass the buck to the federal government,” she said.

During the meeting the board also approved increase substitute teacher pay from $110 per day to $125 per day and authorized the issuance and sale of approximately $12,925,000 in general obligation refunding bonds.

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