LA CROSSE, Wisconsin (WXOW) -- A report issued by the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance says the state's school districts more or less recovered all state aid cut in the Governor's 2011-2013 budget.
The budget contained the provision known as Act 10, which limited the collective bargaining powers of most, public employees to base wage increases capped at the rate of inflation. Act 10 also called for state workers to pay more towards their pensions and gave school districts the option to purchase health insurance coverage from the open market.
In total, the Act 10 budget cut state aid to public schools by $450-million.
But WTA Research Director Dale Knapp said his organization's numbers show school districts across Wisconsin have recovered approximately $450-million through savings in benefit payments since the law was enacted.
"There seems to be a pretty much one-to-one, offset ratio," Knapp said by phone Tuesday.
Knapp added a "small bit" of the savings are due to school employee layoffs but said the WTA does not have specific numbers on the subject.
According to the WTA, the La Crosse school district cut its benefit payments to workers by 22.8% during the 2011/12 school year due to the savings contained in Act 10. The Holmen school district cut its benefit payments 15.2% in the same period, with West Salem schools tallying savings of 19.1% and Onalaska schools reporting 15.6% saved.
Larry Dalton, the Onalaska school district's Director of Finance and Business Services, said his district saw a cut of $1.5-million in state aid due to the budget containing Act 10. But Dalton said Onalaska negotiated with the schools' unions and used a salary freeze, as well as the purchase of less-costly health insurance plans for workers, to offset the reduction without laying teachers off.
Dalton said the savings helped the district recover the full, $1.5-million taken away.
"Was (Act 10) a good thing for the district? I couldn't characterize it that way," he said. "What I would say is the Governor, through Act 10, definitely gave us some flexibility to deal with what he took away from us -- which was a ton of money."
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