August 30, 2014

State aid cuts could lead to higher property taxes

Cuts in state aid to almost two-thirds of Wisconsin’s school districts could result in property tax increases for many parts of the state.

State aid payments to 64 percent of Wisconsin school districts are going down this year, with funding dropping by as much as 15 percent in some areas. Dan Rossmiller with the Wisconsin Association of School Boards says those districts really have two options for covering the losses; they can either go to property taxpayers for more money or make significant cuts in the programs that they offer.

Rossmiller says it’s been a constant problem for districts due to revenue limits not keeping up with inflation since the mid-1990s. At the same time, the state has passed on additional mandates, such as testing requirements, but has not provided additional funding to help pay for them.

Districts do face revenue limits from the state on how much they can increase taxes. Those vary widely and increases could depend on how much of a reduction in state aid districts received. Rossmiller says their members will be working to deal with the financial pinch while still providing a quality education to students. However, he says it is becoming increasingly difficult.

The Wisconsin Association of School Boards has asked the Legislature to give districts more revenue limit flexibility and additional state aid. The state superintendent of Public Instruction also plans to introduce a plan in the next state budget that would reform the formula used to calculate state aid payments.

AUDIO: Andrew Beckett reports (1:03)