Rio reduces school administration, sees lower taxes

November 19, 2018

RIO — One fewer administrator and higher property values contributed to a lower tax rate in the Rio Community School District.

This school year, Craig Vetter took over for the retired Mark McGuire as superintendent but kept his role as elementary principal. Vetter’s dual role means that Rio now has two administrators instead of three, and the district is passing on the savings to its taxpayers.

“We’re making it work,” said Vetter, the elementary principal for the past six years. “I felt I could do both jobs, and so far all is working well.”

The school rate for 2018-19 is $11.52 per $1,000 of equalized value, a decrease of 88 cents from the year before.

Rio’s total budget is balanced at $6.2 million, down from last year’s $6.3 million. The total tax levy is $2.78 million, down from last year’s $2.87 million.

Property values increased from $231.8 million to $240.9 million and student enrollment decreased by only one student — from 406 to 405.

State aid decreased from $2.61 million to $2.58 million.

Last year, three students in the district used private-school vouchers, resulting in $24,500 in lost state aid, but Rio does not have any students using the program this year.

Overall pay increases for district staff amount to 1.3 percent.

Odds and ends

Rio is in the third and final year of an operational referendum, exceeding the state-mandated revenue limit by $975,000 for 2018-19, and the district is once again going to referendum in April, Vetter said.

“Obviously if we don’t pass another referendum, we’re looking at a $975,000 gap to fill,” he said. “Our community has been very supportive of our schools. We took the initiative this past year in making changes with staffing as well as our insurance, but it is difficult to say what we would do” if voters in the district don’t pass another referendum.

Rio recently switched from M3 Insurance to a health insurance broker named TriCore, saving approximately $200,000.

“That amount of savings is huge for a small district like ours,” Vetter said, noting the district still uses Dean Health Plan as its provider.

The school district does not yet know what the dollar amount would be for its next referendum, but Vetter is fairly certain it would again be for three years.

Regarding Wisconsin’s change in governors, going from Repubican Scott Walker to Democrat Tony Evers, Vetter said he still sees “a lot of question marks” surrounding funding for schools.

“There’s still a lot of Republican control, and I’m not sure how well they’ll all work together,” Vetter said.

There was lot of talk from the candidates about the state potentially returning to two-thirds funding for schools, Vetter said, “but I don’t know if it’s possible.”

“Of course we would like to see it,” he said.

Update hourly