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Falls district faces $2.4 million deficit

Board sending letter to Madison asking for revenue limit tied to consumer price index

Feb. 12, 2013

Menomonee Falls - Preliminary projections indicate that the Menomonee Falls School District may need to cut as much as $2.4 million in expenditures in order to reach a balanced budget for the 2013-14 school year.

The School Board on Monday heard an update from Superintendent Patricia Greco on 2013-14 budget planning.

Greco explained that the district has considered three scenarios in projecting revenue for the coming school year - no increase in per pupil revenue from the state, and increases of $100 and $200 per pupil.

Using those models, the district anticipates a revenue shortfall of anywhere from $1.6 million to $2.4 million, with anticipated revenues ranging from $47 million to $47.8 million, and expenditures estimated at $49.4 million, according to a memo from Business Services Director Jeff Gross.

Other assumptions factored into the budget include holding expenses for transportation and supplies and equipment at their current level, and planning for increases of 5 percent for utilities, 7.5 percent for property/casualty insurance, 7 percent for health and dental insurance in the first half of 2014, and 2.5 percent for salaries, which may be shifted down to 1.5 percent, Greco noted.

Layoffs of about 10 full-time equivalent positions could be needed, depending where budget projections go, Greco said.

"The significant change in this year's budget process is layoffs are no longer determined based on seniority alone," Greco noted.

Other factors that could be used in determining layoffs include student enrollment and class sizes and performance, Greco said. The district anticipates that preliminary layoff notices to staff would be given in late March.

Board member David Noshay said the district should have a better idea of projected expenditures over the next few weeks.

Gov. Scott Walker is expected to release his biennial budget on Feb. 20, Greco said, with a board work session scheduled one week later to discuss the district's preliminary budget plan.

The School Board will be submitting a letter to state legislators, which was approved by the board for signatures on Monday, outlining the impact of state aid reductions and unfunded state mandates on the district budget and operations, and identifying steps the district already has taken to cut costs.

"This document is 100 percent fact-based," Noshay said. "So there's not a lot of 'I wants.' This is what's going on and I think that's really important for credibility."

According to the letter, since the 2007-08 school year, the Menomonee Falls School District has seen its state aid per pupil reduced by 41 percent - nearly $1,500 per student. Meanwhile, the local tax levy has increased by more than $6 million or about 19 percent during that time, the letter states, while the district's ability to provide programming to its students has decreased.

In its letter, one of the board's main requests is that the revenue limit increases be tied to the consumer price index, Greco said.

"It's the fact that the revenue limit doesn't pace with inflation that actually causes us to go into the reduction in budget each year," she said.

After the letter is signed it will be forwarded to the governor's office and Education and Joint Finance committees of the Legislature, Greco said, in addition to being shared with district families.

AT A GLANCE

Important upcoming budget planning dates outlined in Gross' memo are as follows:

Feb. 20 - governor's budget released

Feb. 27 - School Board work session on preliminary budget plan from superintendent/leadership

March 11 and March 25 - preliminary budget plan presented for community feedback

March 28 - preliminary layoff notices to staff

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