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Tomah School Board approves levy increase

Tomah School Board approves levy increase

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Tomah Area School District electors will vote on a 2020-21 budget with a 3.85 percent levy increase when they gather for the district’s annual meeting Aug. 24.

The Tomah School Board voted 6-0 to approve the budget during its regular monthly meeting July 20 at Robert Kupper Learning Center.

The budget assumes a two percent increase in district-wide property value, which means the owner of a $100,000 property would pay an additional $13.29 in school taxes.

The levy is $13,350,154, up from $12,855,733 in 2019-20.

School district business manager Greg Gaarder said the budget was put together amid uncertainties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is the most challenging budget I’ve put together because of the unknowns,” Gaarder said.

Gaarder said the budget assumes the district will receive the level of state aid promised under current law. He said the biennial budget signed by Gov. Tony Evers in 2019 “was a very good budget for the district.”

Gaarder said the state has experienced a decline in income and sales tax revenue triggered by sudden pandemic-related shutdown. However, Gaarder said there has been little talk recently of a budget repair bill.

“Hopefully, it isn’t as dire as it was in April,” Gaarder said.

Tomah actually has a $700,000 2019-20 surplus from savings related to the shutdown of school. Evers ordered all schools in the state to close effective March 18, and Tomah converted to virtual classrooms before ending the school year two weeks early May 22. The board is applying half the surplus to the district’s fund balance and other half to its capital improvement fund.

Despite the surplus, Gaarder warned that the district faces expenses related to mitigation of COVID-19 when schools reopen Sept. 1. He’s concerned about food service, where he said expenses could exceed revenues by $350,000.

“We have a budget with some surplus ... but we have to talk about the things that are sitting in front of us,” Gaarder said.

He said cost-of-living increases for teachers and staff and a five percent increase in health insurance costs are built into the budget.

The vote at the annual meeting is advisory. The board will cast a binding vote on the budget before Nov. 1 after receiving figures on enrollment and equalized property value.

In other business, the board left substitute teacher pay unchanged for the 2020-21 school year and suspended its foreign exchange student program for 2020-21 due to COVID-19.

Tomah Journal editor Steve Rundio can be reached at steve.rundio@lee.net.

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Tomah Journal editor

Steve Rundio is editor of the Tomah Journal. Contact him at 608-374-7785.

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