Residents who saw an unusual dip in their Elmbrook school taxes on last December's bills will see a much more stable number this year, under the district's 2012-13 budget to be finalized next month.
An audience of less than 10 people on Monday night approved the proposed tax levy of about $71.9 million. The vote was advisory only; the School Board will vote on a final budget in about a month, with any adjustments from updated enrollment and revenue figures.
Under the proposed budget:
- Elmbrook would levy $390,428 less in total property taxes, or a decrease of 0.54 percent from $72.28 million to $71.89 million.
- The equalized property tax rate would drop by 6 cents, from $10.03 per $1,000 of equalized home value to $9.97 per $1,000. But that is based on equalized home values, and tax bills are based on assessed values.
- The school tax bill for a $300,000 home would drop by $18, from $3,009 to $2,991.
- The district's total general fund spending would decrease 2.5 percent or about $2 million, from about $81 million to nearly $79 million.
About $5 million of the levy would be to pay down debt for the high school rebuilding project and make the final payment in spring 2013 (three years earlier than originally projected) for the construction of Dixon and Brookfield Elementary Schools.
Resident Amy Abplanalp, an empty nester whose children attended another distict, said she was surprised and impressed with the level of commitment the community gives education. Elmbrook's per-pupil spending, depending on the formula for calculating it, ranges from $12,796 to $13,512.
Staff levels questioned after Hillside closure
Don Bardonner of Brookfield questioned why salaries were going up by $206,237 or 0.5 percent, when the district closed Hillside Elementary School.
Total full-time equivalent teachers district-wide is 514.27, down 1.38 teachers from 515.65 in 2011-12, Hillside's last year.
"How? Why? You closed a school," Bardonner said.
Keith Brightman, assistant superintendent for finances, operations and human resources, said closing Hillside resulted in "one or two" fewer teachers.
Brightman said in an interview after the meeting that the $1.2 million savings from closing Hillside came largely from other labor savings, not teachers: reductions of a principal, secretary, two custodians, portions of specials teachers such as art or music and an instructional resource teacher.
Bardonner also asked if the board planned to buy a 13-acre corner parcel at the Lilly and Burleigh intersection next to Brookfield East High School. Board President Tom Gehl said that there was "no decision" yet on that, but it would require a negotiated purchase agreement and approval to acquire land by school district electors at a special meeting.
Major factors in controlling district costs this year were the Hillside closure and $1.3 million in savings from changes in the district's health care plan.