RACINE — Racine Unified officials plan to cut taxes but still spend $9.5 million more in the next school year, according to the preliminary 2013-14 budget approved by the School Board on Monday.
That scenario would be made possible in part by carrying over about $5 million for technology, science labs, maintenance and staff training intended to happen in 2012-13 but not completed because planning took longer than expected and because some construction-related work could not be done during the school year with students present, Unified Budget Director Marc Duff said.
State-level changes, including an increase in state funding and the ability to spend up to $100 more per pupil than last year, also would play a role.
Those factors — combined with a state-imposed revenue cap for school districts — would allow the first tax cut for Unified taxpayers since the 2007-08 school year. The tax rate will likely go down 3.82 percent, from $10.05 per $1,000 of assessed property value to $9.67. The owner of a $100,000 home would pay $967, $38 less than last year, budget documents show.
The budget is still in its early phases, though. It is a preliminary budget used to guide the district from the start of its fiscal year July 1 to the fall, when a final budget will be set using actual student enrollment, state aid and property value information not currently available.
The preliminary budget presumes, for instance, that property values will decrease 3 percent and that enrollment will stay constant at about 20,600 students because more kindergartners will make up for students leaving with vouchers for private schools.
Unified’s preliminary budget also presumes, based on state budget proceedings, that general state aid for the district will increase $8.1 million. That includes $1.2 million that would no longer leave Unified to fund the education of Racine area voucher students; an anticipated state budget change would make the state pay the full cost of a child’s voucher, largely through income tax money, instead of making the child’s resident school district share the cost with the state.
“It’s big news. We’re actually getting an increase in state aid,” Duff said. “In the past few years we’ve had decreases.”
The about $5 million carried over from 2012-13, which is not included under Unified’s 2013-14 revenue cap since it was already counted in 2012-13, would go toward the same projects it was originally set aside for, Duff said.
The other additional 2013-14 funds — with some aid reductions plus health care, school closure and other savings accounted for — would push Unified over its revenue cap, so taxpayers would see a break.
The district’s overall tax levy is likely to go down 6.73 percent, or about $5.7 million, to about $78.7 million. The district’s total operating budget would be $249.2 million, up from $239.7 million in 2012-13, the budget shows.
The additional funds under the revenue cap that Unified can keep would go toward several things, the largest of which would be more staff. Unified plans to add 51.48 full-time-equivalent staffing positions, mostly for kindergarten programs and for special education in high schools, where more special education students are being taught in regular education classes.
Staff would also see salary raises of 2.07 percent, an amount that matches the increase in the consumer price index. Employee benefits would not change, Duff said.
The board unanimously approved the budget during its meeting held at Unified’s central office, 3109 Mount Pleasant St., and attended by about 40 people.
Notable Unified budget changes
• $8.1 million increase in general state aid.
• $500,000 increase in state aid for having small elementary class sizes.
• $482,185 increase in state aid for special education.
• $1.5 million more budgeted for the staff to facilitate including special education high schoolers in regular education classes as recommended.
• $500,000 more budgeted for a comprehensive and careers-based counseling model and the staff to implement it.
• $400,000 saved by closing Wind Point Elementary School.
• $1.2 million less budgeted for health insurance coverage because costs should be down.
Source: Racine Unified 2013-14 Interim Budget and Unified Budget Director Marc Duff.