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School funding plan could hurt

July 7, 2010

A proposed change to how schools are funded in the state could have a big - and negative - impact on the Elmbrook School District.

State Superintendent Tony Evers last month introduced a plan called "Fair Funding for Our Future," which outlines changes Evers will introduce as part of his 2011-13 education budget this fall.

The plan outlines several potential changes, including setting a minimum level of state aid per student and reallocating the School Tax Levy Credit - valued at $900 million - to schools instead of municipalities.

Municipalities now use the credit to reduce tax bills, and property-rich communities usually get larger credits.

Changing or eliminating that would have a big impact on Elmbrook, which is one of the "larger benefactors" of the tax levy credit now, Superintendent Matt Gibson said.

The tax levy credit appears on a property owners' tax bill, said Keith Brightman, Elmbrook's assistant superintendent for finance and operations. If - as is proposed under Evers' plan - part or all of that credit is shifted to the pool of general state aid for schools, that would mean an immediate impact on the tax bills in the property-rich districts like Elmbrook that benefit from the tax levy credit.

And since Elmbrook does not receive a great deal of state aid to begin with, putting the $900 million from the tax levy credit into funds distributed statewide likely would not have a significant impact in the district, Brightman said.

"You'll be paying that much more in school taxes, but the district will receive zero revenue," he said.

Gibson said while he doesn't believe the tax levy credit will be eliminated, the district plans to let legislators know how the change would affect Elmbrook and districts like it.

In the meantime, the district is moving ahead with its 2010-11 budget preparation. It recently learned it will receive about $159,000 more in state aid than it did in 2009-10.

The preliminary budget includes a 1.15 percent levy increase and $85.4 million in expenditures, up $657,000 from 2009-10.

- Alan Hamari

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