Thank you to those who have posed questions related to my recent school funding related blog posts. Several of those questions have centered on the topic of revenue limits so I would like to explain how those limits work and how they impact finances in the Oostburg School District. The graph below was included in my last blog and compares revenue limits for Central Lakeshore Conference schools along with Nicolet HS. Limits on school revenue were put in place in 1993 with the District-specific limit determined based on spending from the prior school year. Oostburg’s revenue limit is one of the lowest in the Wisconsin based primarily on the fact that our per pupil spending was very low in the ’92-’93 school year. The graph shows that Nicolet HS was on the other extreme with very high per pupil spending in ’92-’93. That resulted in a very high revenue limit per student for Nicolet and a low limit for OSD. From ’04-’11 revenue limits have increased by approximately $250 per year to account for inflationary cost increases (fuel costs, insurance, etc.). Between ’11-’15 revenue limits have decreased just under $500 per student.
School revenue is comprised of two primary funding sources: our local tax levy and state aid to public education (called equalization aid). The amount of equalization aid a District receives is directly related to the overall District property value. For example, Kohler and Elkhart Lake have high property values so they receive little state aid. With moderate property values Oostburg receives about 53% of its revenue from state equalization aid and 47% from our local tax levy. If our property values would decrease more than other areas of the state, our state equalization aid percent would increase.
Although we have a low revenue limit ceiling, we are one of a small number of Districts that actually operates under our revenue limit. In other words, we could increase our local tax levy more than what we have and still be below state-imposed limits. Very few schools operate under their revenue limit and as an example, Random Lake increased their local tax levy by 8% last year keeping them at their revenue limit. We increased our levy 2% and remained almost 6% under our revenue limit. (see previous blog for info regarding our local levy increase since ’08-’09)
Our community survey data (http://oostburg.k12.wi.us/pdfs/Oostburg_2013_Survey_Report.pdf) from last fall provided solid feedback in the area of school funding. The graph below summarizes survey results which show that a majority of respondents favored funding OSD at levels at least comparable to our conference schools. The graph above shows that revenue limits prevent comparable levels of funding. Again referring to the graph above and assuming a similar approximate population of 1000 students, Random Lake receives over $500,000 per year in revenue beyond that which is available to OSD. That number doubles to over $1,000,000 in additional annual revenue when considering the Ozaukee School District.
Survey respondents also clearly indicated that they view OSD as a strong asset, bringing value to our community. Our ranking as the top academic District in the area (see 2014 State School Report Card results and my 9/29/14 blog entry) combined with our efficient use of taxpayer resources affirms that perspective. I welcome your continued interest in the work of our District as we partner together to serve the young people in our community.