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Friday, March 6, 2009

House Changes Olson Capital Outlay Bill, Gives Schools More Flexibility

Back in January, I grumbled that SB 91, Senator Russell Olson's (R-8/Madison) plan to let schools use some capital outlay funds for energy costs, actually infringed on schools' budget flexibility by extending this privilege only to schools who capped their capital outlay tax levies at 2008 levels.

Evidently the State House didn't care for that restriction either. On Wednesday the House amended SB 91 to allow any school to benefit, regardless of whether they raise the capital outlay levy. Schools still can't jack up their levy to grab more revenue for fuel costs; SB 91 still limits the amount schools can transfer to 45% of the capital outlay revenues that would have come in under the 2008 levy.

The House version gives schools a little more fiscal freedom, but it also shortens the time frame for schools to make this creative use of capital outlay from five years of the original bill to three years. (See, Governor Rounds? Our Legislature is perfectly capable of using sunset clauses.)

Now it's on to the Governor, who should have a hard time thinking of a reason to veto one of Russ Olson's centerpiece bills. As electricity prices rise, and if diesel starts climbing again, the Legislature has given schools some welcome budget breathing room.


  1. So explain to me why schools can't raise their capital outlay levies (which they can do without a public vote BTW) to equal the 45% amount they can transfer for heating costs?

    I am in favor of the bill, but not necessarily with this change. It will allow a tax raise via increased levy as far as I can see.

  2. The maximum capital outlay amount is capped at 3%. Not all schools are taking the max, but they can move it higher to reach 3%, which will increase your property taxes. People need to attend school board meetings when these items are on the agenda instead of staying at home blogging after the fact.

  3. Anon 7:59: You're right, more people should attend public meetings. But more people (like our school board members and other elected officials) should take up blogging. The reading they would do on public affairs to produce reasonable commentary and include supporting links would be highly informative. Plus, our public officials could use blogging to reach out to the public, explain the issues, and build a greater sense of connection to and maybe even support for government decisions.

  4. Each local school board can assess a capital outlay tax levy no higher than $3.00 per $1,000 of assessed property valuation. So, if a school district is already taxing the maximum of $3.00 they cannot increase the levy. Those schools under $3.00 may raise their levy to take advantage of SB 91. Tax levies are assessed in dollars per $1,000 of valuation and not percentages.


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