At $8.95, the Ripon Area School District’s mill rate for the 2020-21 school year will be the lowest since 1984.
That means the average homeowner with a property value of $100,000 will see a $130 decrease in school district taxes compared to last year.
That’s after the Ripon School Board Monday unanimously voted to adopt an updated 2020-21 tax levy of roughly $6.4 million for the 2020-21 school year, an 8.87% decrease from the previous year’s levy of about $7.1 million.
Of that $6.4 million, $251,272 will be used for community services (swimming pool operation, BRAVE after-school programming, middle school sports and school resource officer), about $2.1 million for debt service and $4 million for general operations.
According to Ripon Area School District Business Manager Jonah Adams, the decrease in this year’s school tax levy can be primarily attributed to a 7% increase in state aid, which created property tax relief in the form of the district’s lowest mill rate in 36 years.
Multiple factors have led to this historically low mill rate, but Adams noted one of the biggest is that property values within the school district went down last year compared to property values in the rest of the state.
“That was a challenge for us because we had less property value to spread our tax levy over, so the mill rate went up,” he said. “But this year, our [state] aid is based on last year’s property values going down compared to the rest of the state, so we got more aid because of that.”
As property values in the district have gone up 4.6% this year, Adams noted the district is able to spread its share of property taxes over more overall value, which he described as a “yo-yo effect” that also contributed to the lower mill rate in this year’s levy.
Additionally, he says that when the state provides more aid to schools, it lessens the property tax burden on homeowners.
Beyond state aid and fluctuating property values, Adams noted the district did its job to make sure it made the most out of last year’s levy.
“We did our part in what we can control, but a lot of it is out of our control,” he said. “Right now, we have a great situation.”
However, Adams added that the mill rate could “bounce back up” next year, especially if state aid is reduced, and the growth in local property values more closely resembles the growth in state property values.
That’s because the state’s formula for generating how much financial aid to award districts is meant to help areas with low property values and more poverty.
While the Ripon area isn’t in “extreme poverty,” Adams said its property values, which decreased last year by about 0.6%, made it appear so to the state when calculating aid.
He added that Ripon’s increase in property value of 4.6% this year likely will be much closer to the state’s, which was about 4% last year, meaning homeowners could see property taxes increase as the district’s share of state aid decreases.
“I would guess that we would probably see higher taxes next year,” Adams said.
IN OTHER NEWS
In other news from the Ripon School Board meeting:
‰ Leading up to the Nov. 3 referendum, Adams noted the portion of this year’s budget dedicated to technology was almost used up. “It’s pretty much all spent, so there won’t be much technology spending for the rest of the year,” he said. The ballot question requests $500,000 in each of the next six years to fund purchases for technology, curriculum and facilities maintenance. Nearly identical referendums were approved in 2009 and 2014, meaning taxes would not increase if this one is approved. “It’s very important to our school district,” Adams said. “The referendum provides operational spending that has kept the district financially strong.”
‰ Due to COVID-19 in the area and the added pressure on staff and families, the School Board unanimously approved an adjustment to the district’s calendar. The School Board granted three additional days over the winter break to allow for a two-week break. The move allows for 16 days off over the winter break, which is from Dec. 19 to Jan. 3.
‰ The School Board unanimously approved revisions to 2021-22 course offerings, which includes adding a “Multicultural America” course that will be offered as a social studies elective for students in 11th and 12th grade. Other courses added include “Technology Education Internship,” “Algebra 1 Strategies,” “Geometry Strategies” and “Algebra 2 Strategies.”
‰ The Student Council at Ripon High School is planning a “Spirit Week” that will feature dress-up days and other socially distanced activities. The week is an effort to give students something fun to look forward to with Homecoming canceled and many fall sports on hold until spring.