Menomonee Falls — The good news is taxpayers in the Menomonee Falls School District are facing a flat tax rate for the 2014-15 school year. The bad news is the district needs to balance a $670,000 deficit to make that possible.
The board on July 28 reviewed the preliminary budget, which calls for the tax rate of $12.35 per $1,000 of equalized value to remain the same. But based on assumptions included in the budget draft that account for a 5% increase in utility costs, 2.5% increase in transportation costs, a 2% salary adjustment for district employees and an estimated health and dental insurance increase of 7%, cuts will have to be made.
If adopted, a total of just over 7 full-time equivalent positions will account for about $281,847 in reductions which Director of Business Services Jeff Gross explained are across the board.
"Salary, with the reductions we've made across the board ... remains pretty stable," said Gross, who reviewed a 36-page summary of the budget with the board July 28. The elimination of two FTE positions is proposed at the elementary level, as well as increased class sizes in physical education at the high school and a decrease in special education staff are among the cuts being discussed.
The change in special education staffing would be partially driven by a decreased number of students with disabilities, Gross said. Also of consideration is the federal land state funding the district receives for the program, which is a fraction of the actual expenditures associated with it. Thought the district will receive a projected $2.7 million in state and federal dollars for the program, the actual cost is estimated at $7.6 million in 2014-15, a discrepancy board member David Noshay referred to as an "unfunded mandate."
Another $336,240 in reductions includes a $38,400 reduction to staff training, $50,000 downgrades to the allocation of funds for maintenance equipment and $39,500 less in employee sick-leave payouts account for non-staffing related changes.
At an estimated cost of about $697,450, capital improvements to Ben Franklin account for a large portion of the $1.34 million in what Gross called improvement priorities for 2014-15. Earlier this year, the school board authorized moving forward with all of the projects necessary at Ben Franklin this year instead of attempting to split the construction over two summers. Improvements include asbestos removal, a new gym floor and requiring for new lighting throughout the school.
Also included in the improvements is the expansion of the 1:1 ratio of student computer to include 11th and 12th grade students at the high school for an estimated $176,800.
Staffing will also increase by just over 3 FTE positions, including the addition of a math interventionist who can provide educational interventions in math at all elementary schools as well as a computer repair technician at the high school.
The board will review and potentially approve the budget at its next meeting which is at 7 p.m. Monday, August 11 at Village Hall, N8480 Pilgrim Road.
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