The 2021 local school budget voting in most districts will be in person and by absentee this year on May 18. A new law adds risk of contracting or spreading a disease during a declared disaster emergency to the reasons a voter can apply for an absentee ballot.
Education unions can play a large part in convincing supportive members of the community to get out and vote to pass budgets and elect school board candidates who will promote public education.
Districts must share their budget proposals with the public between April 27 and May 4, and hold a public hearing between May 4 and 11.
This year districts will be receiving a boost in state aid due to the Foundation Aid agreement. (See related article.) However, on the local level, district budgets still must adhere to the state’s tax cap, which limits increases in the property tax levy to 2 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is less. This year, the tax cap is set at 1.23 percent, the smallest increase since 2016–17.
Districts calculate their local tax levy cap using a number of exemptions and local growth factors. Some end up higher and some end up lower than the state tax cap number.
In addition to finalizing their school budgets, districts also must develop plans to spend their one-time COVID–19 related federal funding to help with pandemic related expenses. These plans must be posted on districts’ websites by July 1 and must be developed with stakeholder involvement. The State Education Department will be releasing applications for the federal funds by early May. School districts must then apply to SED to receive the funds.