LA CROSSE, Wis. (WXOW) – Just weeks before the newly approved $21 million, five-year operating referendum takes effect at the La Crosse School District, administrators have finalized a list of budget cuts for the coming school year.
The district is forced to cut at least $2 million from the operating budget. Instead of cutting major school programs, the district is eliminating some positions, not re-filling others, and increasing the roles of school Library Media Center Specialists, who fill a role similar to a librarian, according to Steve Salerno, associate superintendent of human resources.
The district finalized the list last week.
Among the cuts are four staffers, one who was full time. And changing the High Performance Learning Program by making HPL teachers and LMC Specialists one in the same. This means the school loses 3 full-time positions, but it puts a full-time librarian in each school.
According to Superintendent Randy Nelson, the cuts are required. Even though there's been a referendum in place for the past five years.
In that time, the district had to already cut at least $9 million from the budget.
"When you cut $9 to $10 million over the last 6 years, it becomes challenge after challenge. And unfortunately one of the things that has occurred is some of these reductions come more on the backs of our employees,” Nelson said.
"It grinds on the soul because behind those cuts are people,” Salerno said, adding the district didn't need to make as many cuts thanks to the newly approved referendum.
"We were able to re-purpose some of those dollars that we had previously used in different ways,” Salerno said. “We were able to really significantly mitigate the impact. And in fact, no programs were cut."
More schools are looking to pass referendums because of lack of state funding for public schools, Salerno said.
"It's robbing Peter to pay Paul. It's OK for us to say, 'We've reduced your taxes at the state level. Now locally you can make those decisions,'” Salerno said. “Well sure. But at what expense?”
For now, it's not at the expense of students.
"We can retain programs and keep programs in place. But you're always balancing in this process,” Nelson said, adding the district will have to keep balancing for years to come.
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