Litchfield School Board’s truth-in-taxation hearing Dec. 14 was a quiet affair, with no members of the public showing up at the Wagner Education Building to question or discuss the district’s levy or operation.
And following a brief presentation by Business Manager Jesse Johnson, the School Board certified the district’s 2021 levy at $5.5 million — a 3.77 percent increase over the current year.
Johnson’s presentation included an explanation that the tax levy is based on state-determined formulas, with some increases in tax levies offset by state aid. In addition, school districts’ budgets are limited by state-set revenue formulas, voter-approved levies and fund balances, not tax levies alone.
The bulk of the school district’s 2020-2021 general fund revenue — more than 80 percent, or $15.6 million — came from the state, with local taxes providing 16.73 percent ($3.2 million) and the federal government 1.98 percent ($380,256).
The district’s budget is divided into five funds – general, food service, community service, building construction and debt service.
Litchfield School District’s construction fund is its largest for 2021, as one would expect, with the district in the midst of voter-approved construction projects at Lake Ripley Elementary School and the high school/middle school complex. The construction fund balance on June 30, 2021 is projected to be $21,538,606.
More than half of the 2020-2021 budget is in salaries and wages, with the district spending $10,629,142 or 56.75 percent there. Purchased services make up 19 percent (3,567,205) of the expenditures, and wages 16.21 percent ($2,939,472).
Johnson explained that the district’s re-employment insurance levy increased due to the uncertainty of COVID-19 pandemic effect on the staff. Costs have increased the past two quarters, he said, and he used an estimate of $75,000 for the fiscal 2021-2022 levy. In answer to a question from board member Dave Huhner, Johnson said there may be multiple reasons for the increases, from staff needing to stay home with a child, to being unable to work due to an underlying medical condition.