Electors in the Sun Prairie Area School District set a tax levy of $71.7 million during the Oct. 5 Annual Electors meeting — a figure that would have translated to a $12.56 school-purpose mill rate, but will likely be higher because of a 6 percent equalized value increase.
Sun Prairie Area School District Director of Finance and Business Phil Frei said Tuesday that he believed the school purpose mill rate would be about $12.65 per $1,000 of valuation, or about a 3.1 percent reduction from last year’s $13.06 school-purpose mill rate.
“We are waiting on the final equalized aid amount (Oct. 15) and the final revenue cap calculation,” Frei said by email. “I do think the final equalized aid amount will be close to what DPI estimated on July 1. This will all be finalized on Oct. 26 when the board approves the budget and levy.”
The district has until Oct. 31 to set the levy. The $71,701,570 levy set by electors represents a 3.35 percent increase in the levy from 2019-20, according to figures provided by the district. A $12.65 school purpose mill rate translates to school purpose taxes of $3,162.50 on a $250,000 property.
The one hour meeting also set the salaries of school board members ($6,000 for the board president and $5,000 for other board members) and authorized expenses for board members conducting official district business. Other action conducted during the meeting included:
• Student population drops. Frei told electors during a screencast that the district’s Third Friday Pupil Count dropped by 98 students — a big difference from the 55 student gain forecast by the district during its budgeting forecasts. The student population decrease along with the 6% equalized value increase — instead of the projected 7.5% — impacts the final mill rate total, according to Frei.
“We feel that is a direct result of COVID,” Frei told the electors. He said it is not an unusual number for Dane County Districts — he said Madison is down 800-900 students and that Middleton’s student population decreased about 150.
Frei said the district will need to adjust the budget on what was projected to be an increase of 55 students, but he also said the district’s population consultant, Mark Roffers, and the UW Population Lab both project long-term student population increases in the SPASD.
The projections included in the Annual Meeting publication distributed before the Oct. 5 meeting show a population of 8,587 students for 2021-22 and 8,625 for 2022-23.
• Economically disadvantaged student percentage increases. During his screencast, Frei said the SPASD has 30.4 percent of students who received free or reduced lunch during the 2019-20 school year — an all-time high for the district and a 3.2 percent increase from the 27.2 percent in 2018-19.
• Schroeder elected chair. Electors chose Sun Prairie School Board President Steve Schroeder to chair the Annual Electors meeting.
• Board to set next annual meeting date and time. Former board member Jim McCourt made the motion, which was seconded, to allow the Sun Prairie School Board to determine the date and time for the next annual electors meeting.
• Consternation over in-person meeting. Town of Sun Prairie resident Roger Fetterly wondered why district residents who could not attend the meeting due to concerns over COVID-19 would not be able to see or vote during the meeting.
“There are a lot of people who might want to attend this meeting,” Fetterly said, “but are fearful of the pandemic.”
Frei replied that the annual meeting was being broadcast live on KSUN. As for the voting portion, Frei reminded Fetterly that previous notifications about the meeting stated that in-person attendance was needed.
Attorney Mike Julka from the Boardman & Clark law firm — which also works the the Wisconsin Association of School Boards — told the audience that he advised the association that in-person attendance was required to cast a vote in the election.
One change this year: Those casting votes during the annual meeting were required to be residents of the SPASD for 28 days, instead of the previous 10 days, according to Julka.
During the vote, Fetterly asked for a show of hands by those voting for the levy. But Schroeder did not ask anyone to count the raised hands in favor or against, and made the judgement call that the ayes carried the motion to approve the levy.
The school board is set to take final action on the budget Oct. 26, followed by publication of the budget in the Sun Prairie Star within 10 days of the meeting.