Mequon — The 2016-17 budget for the Mequon-Thiensville School District, which included a levy for the April 2015 referendum, passed at the July 25 annual meeting.
The general fund total budget for 2016-17 is set at $43.1 million, a 6.4 percent increase over last year. Much of the increase in the general fund is related to the 2015 referendum and includes a $2.1 million fund balance. Presenter Gail Grieger said the levy — which is set at $38.4 million, a 1.89 percent increase — is set to the 'max of our authority' as was the case in past years.
The gross total expenditures for 2016-17 is set $59.4 million, a decrease of more than 14 percent. The tax rate saw a 15-cent increase to $8.37 per $1,000 of assessed home value. This would see a $53 tax increase on a home worth $350,000.
Grieger said about 80 percent of the money comes from property tax and nearly 13 percent from state and federal aid.
The budget assumed a decline in enrollment — an estimated 76 students — which has been a continuing trend in recent years. Last year saw a slight increase, which district officials attributed to the creation of a 4K program.
The only vote against approving the budget following the hearing and moving it to the annual meeting was School Board Member Jon Jacobs, who said the state turned its back on public education. He said he voted against to make a statement but did support the tax levy to move forward.
New initiatives, old debt
A few new initiatives were discussed at the annual meeting, including new advanced placement (AP) courses at Homestead High School and a three-year Apple lease to replace all laptops and add student devices. A community pavilion allowing greater access to restrooms and concessions for athletics and additional elementary classrooms — seven new total divided among three schools — were also added and funded by district reserves.
The district also added an academic and career planning counselor position for grades six through 12. The purpose of the position is to assist in postsecondary education planning and workforce development. Superintendent Demond Means said the new position 'allows students to figure out where they want to be.'
For kindergarten through eighth grade students in the summer, a Summer Youth Academy will be offered through the Mequon-Thiensville recreation department, which runs through MTSD.
Means added the district is also looking at adding another section of kindergarten and third grade.
Discussed at the meeting was the debt held by the district. Grieger said the only debt in the MTSD is long-term referendum debt. She said the district will make its last debt payment in 2030. The district is also about 90 percent complete with projects from the 2015 referendum.
Means said all the projects are expected to be completed this fall.
He means it
Means made a short presentation at the meeting saying despite a decline in enrollment and therefore revenue, the district is still 'high-performing.'
Means said the 'core of community is equity and social justice.' He said people need to rally around these common themes instead of 'tearing each other down.'
'Advocate for all; put aside agendas,' Means said.
According to Means, the district is focused on a unified program, with programming offered for every single student. He said they are committed to have resources for every program offered — which he said sets the MTSD apart from others.