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October 15, 2001

School tax rate takes big dip

The Hamilton School Board approved a budget and a tax levy Oct. 15 that will decrease residents’ mil rate by $1.56 ­ a 12.10 percent drop over last year’s rate. A resident whose property is valued at $150,000 will see a $234 decrease in school taxes. The equalized tax rate for school purposes will be $11.36 per $1,000 of property for the 2001-02 school year compared to $12.92 in 2000-01.

“It’s always nice to get good news,” said Finance Committee Chairman and School Board member Jim Long when presenting the budget numbers.

School officials at the Annual Meeting in June had predicted the mil rate would be $12.22. The lower tax rate is attributable to several factors including increased community property value and greater state aid. The district’s equalized valuation – including new growth and greater value of existing property – increased 9.15 percent. State aid jumped 23.38 percent, from $11.87 million in 2000-01 to more than $14.64 million in 2001-02. State aid now comprises 48.24 percent of district revenues, significantly higher than in previous years. While state aid has been as low at 21 percent in the past decade, it has risen steadily in recent year.

School Board members approved a $32,917,619 budget with a local tax levy of $18,729,936. The numbers represent a 6.49 percent increase in the budget and a 4.06 percent levy decrease.

In other financial business, the School Board asked administrators to check into possible refinancing plans. A representative from Robert W. Baird spoke to Finance Committee members about refinancing debt that could save an estimated $20,000 annually from 2002 to 2006 when the debt would be paid off. The total savings would be $97,185. Board members would take action at a future meeting if a new financing package is worked out.

Enrollment increases by 34

Superintendent Kathleen M. Cooke, Ph.D., reported that the district saw a 34-student increase over last year. The official enrollment report that is sent to the state Department of Public Instruction determines future state funding and the formula for state revenue limits.

Federal act requires Internet safeguards

Cooke also reported that the district has complied with the first phase of the federal Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA). The first step of the act requires that school districts enforce an Internet safety policy. It must include a techology protection measure that safeguards adults and minors from obscene visual depictions or child pornography. While the first phase deals with policies, the CIPA’s second phase requires districts to have an Internet filter. The district is exploring a contract with its Internet provider, WiscNet, to provide a filtering service that would go into effect July 1, 2002.

Youth Option Program requests approved

The requests of nine Hamilton High School students to participate in the Youth Options Program next semester was approved at a cost of $6,500. The program allows students in good academic and disciplinary standing who have completed 10th grade to take technical college or university courses at district expense. The Youth Options Program is available to students throughout the state.