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Lisbon school budget: Slight decrease in taxes proposed; enrollment bump helps
April 05, 2013 · Jake Krob

The Lisbon School Board on Monday will consider a budget with a lower tax rate for the second year in a row, and one that advances payments on debt, also for the second consecutive year.

A public hearing on the budget for next year is at 6:45 p.m. in the board meeting room. Board members will likely approve the budget that night.

"This is probably what they'll stick with," said business manager Laurie Maher, referring to the likely approval of the budget and tax rate with no changes from what was published in the Sun last week.

However, the final tax rate could change based on what happens at the state level. It won't go up.

District leaders propose a tax rate of $17.13 per $1,000 of a property's taxable value. That's about a half percent lower than the current rate of $17.21. The current rate is about eight percent lower than in 2011. The proposed rate is about nine percent less than the highest rate in recent year, $18.45 in 2009.

Maher and superintendent Brad Laures point out that the proposed $17.13 rate can't be higher. But there's a chance it could be lowered.

"There are some dominos that still have to fall - allowable growth and property tax reform," Laures said, referring to pending decisions by the state legislature.

Laures said that particularly with discussions of property tax changes, the rate could drop as much as 60 cents.

Lisbon's budget is based on state lawmakers approving four percent allowable growth, essentially schools getting four percent more per pupil. The current per pupil amount is $6,001.

Laures and Maher believe it's unlikely allowable growth will be that high. But the district basing its budget on that amount allows it to tax at the highest rate possible.

Still, the tax rate will be less than it currently is.

One reason, Maher explained, is that the district is not levying (taxing) for cash reserve. Prior to this year, the district levied about $500,000 a year for cash reserve, to provide a cushion for school district finances.

The district isn't doing that this year, or next, because of strong finances. The litmus test is what's known as the solvency ratio, a percentage derived by dividing the undesignated general fund balance by total revenues. Maher said a rule of thumb is to have a solvency ratio of 10 to 15 percent. Lisbon's is at about 26 percent currently, so the extra cash is not needed.

Even without the cash levy, Maher said it's unlikely the district's solvency ratio will "even dip below the 15 percent mark." In other words, not taxing for the cushion will not harm the district's finances.

The biggest impact on the budget is enrollment. Lisbon's enrollment is up nearly 20 kids this year, which translates to about $120,000 more total per pupil funding for next year's budget.

"We've been committed to improving programs, being innovative and being more customer friendly," Laures said. "It's really paid off."

Two other highlights from the proposed budget are:

• The district is levying for $160,000 for pre-payment on bonds that were sold several years ago for the elementary project.

"That will save us thousands of dollars in interest," Maher said.

She and Laures point out that although part of the budget, paying off debt for the new early childhood center is not tied to property taxes. That's being paid for with sales tax revenue.

• The management levy, used for such things as insurance and unemployment, is going from $275,000 to $350,000.

Lisbon has equipment insurance to handle issues related to its one-to-one program, where sixth through 12th grade students each get an Apple laptop computer. Maher reported that use of the insurance by the district has been at 230 percent of the premiums paid, and the insurance rates will therefore be increasing.

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