Some updates on the hard and harmful choices Wisconsin’s broken system of funding schools is forcing on districts much like MMSD. It looks like raising class sizes and cutting teachers is popular this time around.
Beloit is facing a $3.5 million gap this year. This is in part due to lower than expected enrollments, but mostly due to the annual structural gaps that are built into our state’s school finance system. They will have 30 students in a a fifth grade class this year.
All the excitement about charters in Appleton didn’t prevent the need for $3.2 million in cuts this year. They’ve been able to keep 25-1 ratios in k-3, but 4-6 are up to 26-1 and grades 7-12 will rise to 27.5-1.
Green Bay just approved their annual budget, it includes $6.5 million in cuts. The district is saying the cuts were “reduced” to $4.1 million by stricter staffing guidelines that resulted in eliminating 35 FTE teaching positions. That looks like a harmful budget cut to me, but if they want to spin it that way and the people in Green Bay buy it, I guess it worked. The people in Madison would know better. 17.6 FTE support positions have also been cut. They will save about $500,000 by leasing instead of purchasing equipment (an idea Dan Nerad has indicated will be brought to Madison). $800,000 of programing was transferred to Fund 80. From the news report. I can’t figure out what else was cut or reallocated. It does note that the new 4 year-old kindergarten program is “off the books” and funded via the Fund Balance.
Of further relevance to those interested in the Madison November referendum is that in Appleton the projected tax impact on local homeowners will be 4.7% increase and in Green Bay it will go up 3.7%. The school mil rate and taxes on an individual home will go down this year in Madison. With a successful referendum, the projected mil rate will increase 1.1% the first year, and decrease significantly the following years.
Taxes and tax rates are going up along with cuts in Appleton and Green Bay.
Things are different in Madison. We have the opportunity to slow school budget cuts with no long range mil rate increase. This is because the economy in Madison is strong, life here is good and people want to move or stay here, so the property tax base keeps growing.
Quality schools are a big part of why Madison is strong and good and attractive. That’s the circle we want to keep intact; invest in education and it pays off in prosperity and happiness. Let’s not let the broken state school finance system break the circle in Madison.
Thomas J. Mertz