Local Schools Expecting Fresh Cuts Under Budget Proposal - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

Local Schools Expecting Fresh Cuts Under Budget Proposal


ONALASKA, Wisconsin (WXOW) -- The Governor's budget proposal has called for injecting an extra $129-million in state funding into Wisconsin's general education fund. 

But the proposal also keeps the revenue limit on school districts flat -- meaning they're not authorized to raise additional money through property taxes. That means districts would operating at their current funding levels next year too. 

Larry Dalton, the Onalaska school district's director of finance and business services, said that would amount to a deficit needed to be offset by a fresh round of spending reductions. 

"State aid is a transaction between the state and the taxpayer," Dalton said. "So with a level revenue limit, all the Governor is doing is exerting downward pressure on the property tax levy. Less money will come from property taxes." 

Dalton said the Onalaska schools would have to hack about $600-thousand off of their expenditures if the revenue limit stays stagnant. 

If state lawmakers pass a proposal being talked about by Sen. Mike Ellis (R-Neenah) and Sen. Luther Olsen (R-Ripon) the cap would be lifted by $150 per student. 

Dalton said the Onalaska schools are used to seeing an increase of more than $200 per pupil each year, so he estimated the Ellis-Olsen proposal would still result in modest cuts. 

"We would be looking to decrease expenditures by about $150-thousand if that plan was successful," Dalton said. 

He added the school is still expected to increase its scores, and implement new, statewide curriculum standards, despite the economic uncertainty. 

"We have to buy over $300-thousand of math and reading curriculum resources," Dalton said. "We have to train our teachers and our teachers then have to develop other curriculum materials." 

"All that costs money," he said.  

Janet Rosseter, the executive director of business services for the La Crosse schools, said her district is staring at roughly $1-million in cuts even if the revenue limit is raised according to the Ellis and Olsen proposal. 

She said school districts, much like private companies, have to deal with inflation. Rosseter said rising gas prices and costs for school supplies make trimming the budget harder. 

She said it's likely the district could continue with a previously implemented pay freeze to help offset the shortage in state money. 

"We're like any other business," Rosseter said. "Costs don't normally decrease each year, they increase." 

The Ellis and Olsen plan has garnered the support of Sen. Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse) who is one of four democrats on the legislature's 16-member joint finance committee. Although Shilling said she would ideally like to see even more new revenue for schools. 

"The $150 is a starting point," she said.

"I don't see us going up much further than that, even though I would like to," Shilling said. "I would like to see us get back to $220 or so per pupil."
Rep. John Nygren (R-Marinette) said Ellis and Olsen have not yet turned their talk to the press regarding a possible increase in per pupil funding into a formal amendment proposal. 

"We don't know the true cost to the budget yet," Nygren said.

The co-chair of the joint finance committee also said he remains skeptical that the funding situation is as dire as some schools have claimed.
"Every year there's a desire from our public school system to have more dollars," Nygren said, "so it doesn't surprise me that there's an outcry. So we'll listen."

"But at the end of the day we represent the people of the state of Wisconsin and we're going to find a solution that's in their best interests," Nygren said. 
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