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Brown Deer residents approve school levy with no increase

Oct. 3, 2012

Brown Deer - Because residents rallied around the Brown Deer School District for a multiyear building referendum in 2011, the School Board did not want an increase in the tax levy for this year's budget cycle.

Their goal was achieved at the annual meeting on Tuesday as 16 residents unanimously approved the levy.

The levy for the 2012-2013 school year totals $13,313,714. It includes a 0.38 percent increase from last year in the amount of $50,401, which is money from the previously approved referendum funding. The funding will be spread over the next eight years.

Legally, the School Board could have raised the levy by 6 percent at the most; however, they chose to limit it solely to the increase approved in the building referendum.

"We have a very tight budget," said School District Finance Director Emily Koczela. "Every person on our staff knows the times are not great and it's not the time to ask for extravagant things."

The money is going toward consolidating the school campus from three to two buildings. The elementary school has fallen into disrepair over the years and the middle school and high school will be renovated to accommodate the change.

Spending smarter

Koczela said the referendum project is already starting to pay off as the district is seeing a savings in maintenance costs. Taking down the elementary building will ultimately save the district $7 million in repair costs, she said.

"We're not spending more, we're not spending less, we're trying to spend it smarter," Koczela said. "For the taxpayer, I think it's good news, and the board reached the goal they were setting out to achieve."

Though it was a straight forward budget presentation this year for Brown Deer, it was the toughest budget district staff has ever put together, Koczela said. Since the School Board did not want to raise taxes and the state cut 15 percent in aid - or $800,000 - district finances were tight.

The district also lost 10 percent of its state aid for the prior school year in 2011-2012. The aid fell from $5,264,349 to $4,453,677 for 2012-13. Despite these losses, class sizes will remain the same and programs will not change.

Programming maintained

"Despite significant reductions we have faced over the years, we have been able to maintain programming and class sizes and not cut programming to make sure all our students have the wonderful opportunities they need to be successful," Superintendent Deb Kerr said. "We have a balanced budget and that's very important to understand at this day in age. We are living within our means."

To have a balanced budget, the district did not hire back some staff members after they retired. Some teachers that left the district were also replaced with teachers that had less experience under their belts and are subsequently paid less money. The district also saved in health insurance costs and because staff lowered the debt payment last year.

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