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Petrowski: Recent state budget good for local governments, rural schools


WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAU) -- We’ve heard the budget arguments about school choice, and how a budget change helped Skyward remain in Stevens Point. State Senator Jerry Petrowski says there are several good things in the budget you may not have heard about.

He says local governments will benefit from increased highway aid. “In the budget, there was a lot of good things done for local government. The town governments got fifty dollars more per mile per year, which I think is tremendous as a help to local governments. Everybody else basically got about a four percent increase.”

Last week, the City of Wausau passed a resolution seeking state permission to have a one-tenth of a percent sales tax to help fund the Metro Ride Transit system. Petrowski says he wants to see Wausau’s resolution and hear what they plan to do with the revenue. “We actually called down to the city to see if they would send it to us, but so far, I haven’t seen it. I can tell you that there’s not support for raising sales tax, however, this might be some kind of a unique thing where they’re trying to lower property taxes with a sales tax, so we’re going to have to wait to see what that looks like when we actually get a copy of that resolution.”

Veterans also did better under the new state budget. Petrowski says a tax exemption passed, as did veterans home funding. “There is a property tax exemption for disabled veterans, and that got expanded to the surviving spouses now. On top of that, there was an expansion for people working at our veterans homes in King, so that they can get more employees to handle the amount of patients.”

The budget has 150 more dollars per student for schools. What you may not have heard is that 75 dollars goes into categorical aid and the other 75 dollars goes into the school funding formula. Petrowski says this helps struggling schools. He says a large amount of rural transportation dollars will help districts that have to bus students over ten miles. In the 29th Senate District alone, that’s about 700-thousand dollars more to cover those bussing expenses. “In Athens, they’ll pick up another seventy-five thousand dollars. In Colby, another thirty-four thousand, Edgar will pick up twenty-one thousand, Marathon City will pick up about fifty thousand dollars. A lot of our rural schools will be benefiting from the initiative to deal with the high cost of transportation in rural school districts.”

Families that send their children to private or parochial schools will appreciate a tax break in the second year of the budget. Petrowski says they will be able to get some money back after paying for both public and private schools. “In 2014, they’ll be able to start having a deduction on their income taxes. If they have a child in K-through-eighth grade, they will be able to take a four-thousand dollar deduction per student. If they have a student in high school, they will be able to take up to a ten-thousand dollar deduction, depending of course on how much they pay in tuition.”