Nicolet passes decreased budget, increased levy

Big capital projects contribute to tax hike

Aug. 27, 2013

Glendale — A combination of Nicolet School Board and community members by an 11-0 vote approved a 2013-14 budget and levy Monday at the district's annual meeting.

Nicolet is anticipated to spend nearly $200,000 less than it did last year — a roughly 1 percent budget decrease — but the levy will increase by 3 percent to make up for lost state aid and fund a stormwater system overhaul and remodeled wing for cognitively disabled students.

The 3 percent tax increase is the first of three such annual increases averaging 1.5 percent. The increases will both fund stormwater and remodeling projects, as well as energy-saving capital projects around campus.

Administrators have said the tax increase serves the second function of acclimating voters with a higher tax rate, which will bode well for the district's chances of passing an increased operational referendum in several years. The current referendum, passed in 2011, granted the district $2.15 million in added revenue annually through the 2015-16 school year.

The district tax rate will increase 14 cents over last year to $4.81 per $1,000 of assessed property value. A district resident with a $300,000 home will have a $1,443 tax bill from Nicolet, $43 more than last year.

Raises approved

At a regular session before the annual meeting, teachers and the School Board came to an agreement on a 2 percent pay raise, which will be applied to their wages for the recent 2012-13 school year and soon paid in a lump sum.

All but one member of the Nicolet Education Association voted to ratify the agreement and the School Board unanimously approved the raise. The raise is the maximum allowed by the provisions of Act 10, which allows unions to bargain up to the consumer price index.

Since Act 10 applies the CPI increase to a "base wage" less than the many Nicolet teachers' salaries, the raise equals about a 1.4 percent pay bump compared to total teacher pay, said Business Manager Jeff Dellutri.

Nicolet teachers on average were the highest paid in the state last year. Dellutri said the raises were distributed toward the lesser-earning teachers to create a semblance of the pay scale which existed before Act 10, and to retain quality teachers who aren't making as much as others.

"While our high is very high, our low is very low," Dellutri said.

NEA President Rob Rinka agreed.

"The only way for (lesser paid teachers) to get a substantial raise was for them to move," Rinka said. "We don't want that. I think the board recognized that."

New system on the horizon

The board also approved raises for the 2013-14 and 2014-15 school years. According to Dellutri, the 2014-15 pay scale is a placeholder meant to bridge the current model and one which may be tied to the upcoming, state-mandated teacher evaluation system.

Nicolet participated in an advanced pilot of the evaluation system last year and will be part of a state-wide trial this year. The state Department of Public Instruction will require districts statewide to use the model to evaluate teachers in the 2014-15 school year.

By that point the administration, teachers and School Board may have found a way to tie the evaluation system to teacher pay, Dellutri said.

"We're saying, let's do that," Dellutri said. "Let's figure out how to make that work."



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