Menomonee Falls schools look for ways to trim $2.4 million
District, residents discuss where to cut
Menomonee Falls - Residents had a chance last week to provide input on where the Menomonee Falls School District should or should not make cuts as it tries to trim $2.4 million from its 2013-2014 budget.
As a result of Gov. Scott Walker's proposed biennial budget, the district is anticipating a zero increase in per pupil funding. At that level, the district's 2013-14 revenues are anticipated to amount to about $47 million, with projected expenditures currently estimated at $49.4 million. That means the School Board has some difficult decisions to make in coming months to find those dollars and sought public opinion during an informal meeting last week.
Based on assumptions and the proposed state budget that won't be approved until late May or early June after final layoff notices have to be issued, it is anticipated that utility rates will increase by 5 percent, insurance rates will increase 7.5 percent, and dental and health insurance will increase 7 percent. Initially, the district was projecting a 2.5 percent increase in salaries, an amount that has been reduced to zero percent if the zero increase in per pupil financing holds true, Business Director Jeff Gross said.
Decreases to revenues include a 1 percent decrease to state special education reimbursement, 15 percent decrease in state general aid and a 9 percent decrease in federal education aid. Because the state is proposing a two-year freeze on the revenue limit, reductions are necessary over the next two years - cutting $2.4 million in 2013-14 and $2.1 million in 2014-15.
Revenue decline, class cuts
On top of it, enrollment is declining in Falls, however, there are still enough students spread out over all classes. This means cutting a teacher from the elementary school would cause class sizes to increase more than the district's guidelines. Therefore, elementary staff cuts are not a viable option to reduce expenditures at that level. Greco said.
"If we lost 200 elementary children in buildings, we lose two children per class - not enough to lose a teacher," Superintendent Pat Greco said . "That's where we use Open Enrollment so we can keep class sizes low for children, but a board guideline is to not exceed 10 percent of nonresidential students."
Orchestra a possible cut
Parents were concerned about what electives could be cut from curriculum, not only this coming year but in 2014-15 as well. For example, the plan calls for elimination of orchestra in 2014-15. Parents who just enrolled their children in orchestra in middle school want to know for certain if it will be cut so their children can take band instead so students can stick with the same music class throughout their educational careers.
Resident Barb Nienow said if the plan is to cut the program then the district should not wait a year to do it and give students the option to change course.
"If you are fairly sure this is something that may be cut, then I don't think you should wait another year. Staffing is a different issue, but why wait one more year?" she asked.
The answer is complex, as the Curriculum and Learning Committee and School Board are still in the process of making these decisions for this year. Things can also change by 2014-15.
Elective classes at the high school on the chopping block are design and keyboard, as well as moving yearbook to being co-curricular instead of a course.
"We did a study on job markets that are viable and we are offering the excellent programs that we value that are wonderful to offer, but we have to make some really hard choices and design would be an example of that," Greco said. "All are valued, all are important, but we are in a hard decision (process) where we have to reduce programming."
Staffing changes proposed
The School District is looking at cutting 9.85 full-time equivalent employees at the high school, a move that would save $626,000.
In doing so, however, teachers' workloads in 2013-14 will change. They will instruct six sections with two prep times - instead of their current five sections - but will no longer oversee supervisory sections such as study hall. These roles would be overseen by aides.
The district would also cut 2.2 FTEs at North Middle School, 1.3 of those in library staffing. As a result of cuts, music would be reduced to every other day, while music lessons and relationship and design classes would stop.
An increase in 1.45 FTE would be added to the elementary school, partly in math support positions.
New revenue stream
Falls resident Larry Smalley said the district needs to focus on increasing revenue. He suggested the district look at reinvesting in Thomas Jefferson Elementary school and selling Valley View Elementary, which sits on highly valuable land in the village.
Reopening Thomson Jefferson would require $4 million in work including a new HVAC system, Greco said, a cost that would necessitate a referendum. She said the Lilly Creek property was once considered a site for a new elementary school, but the community turned down the referendum. The district is reviewing a potential sale of those 24 acres of land to mitigate the $2.4 million deficit.
The district attempted to renovate Thomas Jefferson a few years ago, however, inflation hit and those funds were diverted to work on only Valley View, Gross said.
Other reductions on the table include increasing the middle school pool charge, increasing facility and rental use, decreasing transportation costs by increasing elementary walking guidelines to two miles from the current one mile; and considering an increase on athletic fees.
The full budget report is available to view at sdmf.k12.wi.us.
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