UPDATE: Most school districts will receive less money next year - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

UPDATE: Madison School Board calls special meeting to discuss budget cuts

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MADISON (WKOW) -- The Madison Board of Education called a special meeting Monday after the state announced Madison schools will have nearly $9 million less in state aid for the upcoming school year, as compared to last year.

"My reaction was not of surprise, but of chagrin and disgust," school board treasurer TJ Mertz said.

Wisconsin's Department of Public Instruction released a report Monday morning that more than half of the state's school districts will fewer state funds for the 2013-14 school year than they did for the 2012-13 school year.  

"We're really going to have to scramble for every cost savings we can to minimize the impact of the cut in state aid on our tax payers and to keep cuts away from our classrooms," school board president Ed Hughes said.

During the school board's special meeting, members wanted to understand why the state did what it did. District officials explained that the state is essentially penalizing Madison schools for spending more on their students than other districts do.

"Madison's spending per student is relatively high compared to the state, higher than it was last year, and therefore you might be less eligible for equalization aid," said Mike Barry, assistant superintendent for business services.

School board members proposed various measures to make up for the state cuts, including raising property taxes, cutting school maintenance and renovations, and even cutting or reducing a proposed 1.5 percent pay hike for faculty. Though members did not vote on any of these measures, many seemed opposed to disappointing teachers.

"They have not had a straight across the board as our other staff. I particularly want to point out our lower paid staff, our food service workers, educational assistants, and others. Those hits have really hurt. So we'll be looking at that and understanding that our staff is the most valuable thing in our schools," Mertz said.

School Board president Ed Hughes proposed asking for teachers to chip in for health benefits.

"Well, it depends how it's implemented. In a way it makes sense. I want to do in a way that doesn't result in an out of pocket loss to our teachers," Hughes said. "That's a pretty complicated issue with a lot of financial implications and ramifications that we're not really fully aware of at the moment, so that's something we'll really have to look at over the next year, but it's not a decision we'll be able to make within the next week or so.

For new school superintendent Jennifer Cheatham, her first budget isn't ideal.

"I know we are committed at MMSD with making sure that we're using every penny in our budget to its highest and best use.  But it makes it really challenging when we're not getting sufficient funding to fund even the basics," Dr. Cheatham said.

By the end of the meeting, no decisions had been made about staff salaries, and the board will not likely have a vote for months. The members have asked for more research and information about how salaries and health care changes might impact staff before they act.

The next board of education is July 15. Members do not have to approve a final budget until October.

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MADISON (WKOW) --The Madison Metropolitan School District will face an $8.8 million cut in state aid for 2013-14, the largest of any school district in Wisconsin.

"There's no question that this poses a big challenge for us," said MMSD Superintendent Dr. Jennifer Cheatham, whose first budget will largely be devoted to damage control.

"I know we are committed at MMSD with making sure that we're using every penny in our budget to its highest and best use.  But it makes it really challenging when we're not getting sufficient funding to fund even the basics," said Dr. Cheatham.

MMSD is not alone.  More than half of Wisconsin school districts will receive less in state general aid for the 2013-14 school year than they did in 2012-13, according to a report released by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction on Monday morning.

"The fact of the matter is the amount of money that was put in our budget for public schools was not very much, in fact it was less than the cost of inflation," said Wisconsin DPI Superintendent Dr. Tony Evers.  "So, was I surprised that over half the schools got less than the year before?  Absolutely not.  That was in the cards."

But the head of the Senate Education Committee says the state education budget reflects what was realistic.

"We felt that we needed to do some compromising or we were not gonna get a budget,"  said Sen. Luther Olsen (R-Ripon).  "And as you know, the budget has to pass, so Senator Ellis and I worked up a plan, presented it, the Governor accepted it, the leaders of both Houses accepted it and that's where we are today."

For MMSD, that could mean a larger-than-anticipated property tax hike or a final budget figure that is far less than originally proposed.

"I mean, I think basics like where we're going with teacher salaries for example are gonna have to be a big part of that discussion," said Dr. Cheatham.

The Middleton-Cross Plains district will also see a cut in state aid of seven percent next year, but other Dane County districts will receive more money.

The Verona Area School District will see a 16 percent increase in state aid, while Sun Prairie Area Schools will get an 11 percent increase.

The state aid funding formula is based largely on enrollment and property values.  Districts which see enrollment increases and decreases in property values receive more money than districts with declining enrollments and rising property values.

The MMSD Board will not have to approve a final budget in October, but Dr. Cheatham is expected to make her budget recommendations to the Board of Education later this month.

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MADISON (WKOW) -- More than half of Wisconsin school districts will receive less in state general aid for the 2013-14 school year than they did in 2012-13, according to a report released by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction on Monday morning.

Overall state school aid will increase by 1.1% in 2013-14, but according to DPI 54 percent of all districts will actually get less money.

The numbers vary widely in south-central Wisconsin, with the Madison Metropolitan School District getting 15% less money while Verona Public Schools will receive 16 percent more.

Capitol Bureau Chief Greg Neumann will have more on this story on 27 News at 5 and 6.

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