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Despite projected increase in state aid, McFarland and Monona Grove remain cautious on budget outlook

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The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) has released state aid estimates for the 2021-22 school year, with both Monona Grove and McFarland school districts set to receive six figure increases over last year’s numbers.

Based on DPI’s estimation, Monona Grove could receive an increase of 4.87% in state funds this year. DPI officials estimate the district will collect around $15.5 million in 2021-22 general aid, an increase of more than $720,000 from the $14.8 million the district secured last year.

Yet, while that six figure jump may sound promising, Business Services Director Jerrud Rossing said it likely won’t result in a significant budget boost for the district.

“This estimated increase in funding does not increase our budget nor provide any new dollars to the Monona Grove School District to be spent on students,” said Rossing.

According to Rossing, the DPI estimate merely changes where the funding comes from, but not much else.

“The estimated increase of $723,000 released by DPI last week is for State Equalization Aid. This will provide property tax relief for our community, but does not increase the amount of money we receive.”

Rossing compared the district’s budget to a pie, saying some slices come from the state budget and other from the community by way of property taxes. The slices allocated to each funding source may change, Rossing said, but the pie never gets any bigger.

It’s a similar situation in McFarland.

McFarland schools could see a 1.51% increase in general aid this year, according to the DPI estimate. The district is slated to bring in $13.1 million for the 2021-22 school year, up $150,000 from last year’s $12.9 million.

McFarland School District staff said the estimated increase in general aid, mixed with a projected growth in the district’s revenue cap, could save village residents money in property taxes this coming year.

The district is projecting a revenue cap increase of close to $200,000 next school year. A revenue cap is the total amount of income a district can collect in a year, which is made up of both state aid and property taxes. It’s calculated using a three-year average of district enrollment, and other variables.

That increase in state aid, and the increase in the total amount McFarland can collect, will cause property taxes to drop, Mahoney said.

But, while a decrease in property taxes may sound appealing on the surface, a closer look reveals a more negative long-term impact, Mahoney said.

“The legislature sent the governor a budget that had no increases to per pupil spending, thus we will start moving into deficit budgets over the next few years,” said Mahoney. “If the trend continues too long, it would require local taxpayer intervention to maintain balanced budgets.”

In all, Wisconsin DPI officials reported a total of 276 school districts across the state estimated for an increase in aid this coming school year, with 140 districts slated for a decrease.

Finalized state aid numbers will be released in October, though Mahoney said it’s not likely to change by more than a 1% margin.

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