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Madison School Board approves annual budget, tax levy

By Jessica Arp, jarp@wisctv.com
Published On: Aug 26 2013 06:02:32 PM CDT
Updated On: Aug 26 2013 08:34:10 PM CDT
Jennifer Cheatham

Jennifer Cheatham

MADISON, Wis. -

The Madison School Board unanimously approved its $391 million budget Monday night with two abstentions, and approved the tax levy with a 6-1 vote.

Monday afternoon, board members heard from a handful of community members before the first budget put forward by new Superintendent Jen Cheatham was approved.

"Please allocate more money for social and emotional learning," said retired teacher Gary Stout.

"I know there are a lot of challenges of what to put the money to," said Madison Teachers Inc. representative Erin Proctor. "But to pass a 1.5 percent increase in salary for the educational assistant unit and food service and security assistance means a lot."

The budget would raise taxes by nearly 4.5 percent, which adds up to about $120 on the average Madison home. The district could have maxed out a tax levy at 9.5 percent, or $250 on that same home but Cheatham said they were trying to be good stewards of the taxpayer dollar.

"We received the highest possible reduction in funds from the state at 15 percent," said Cheatham. "That is really what the majority of our tax levy is all about. It's about retaining services, not adding services."

The budget includes a 1 percent across-the-board raise for teachers, and Cheatham said that was a priority because salaries had remained flat in recent years.

Cheatham said any budget with a lower levy than she's proposed would be difficult to manage.

"At this point, with the school year about to start it would be a real challenge to try to reduce the levy significantly," said Cheatham. "We would have to make cuts that would affect services to the classroom."

Cheatham said they did hear from senior citizens during the budget process who were concerned about a levy increase. The district will likely pass a program that would allow them to lower their tax bill by volunteering in the schools.

The final vote on the budget will be in October after final state aid numbers come in.

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