Schools Bypass Budget Caps

Amy Hetzner:

A little-publicized exemption to a state law that caps school district revenue has kept a nurse in the Greenfield School District and cops in South Milwaukee’s middle and high schools in recent years.
It could also help pay the Waukesha School District’s share of a new traffic light, and for a part-time aide to record student immunization data for the Oak Creek-Franklin School District.
And there is a possibility such cases, in which school systems are allowed to raise extra money if they have to replace a service that had been provided by another governmental entity, could grow.
“I think there is a potential but it varies from school district to school district, community to community,” said Woody Wiedenhoeft, executive director for the Wisconsin Association of School Business Officials. “But, in tight times, to try to make budget fits, I can see people discuss ‘Well, should we move it from one budget to another?’ ”
In recent years, the exemption has led school districts to raise their revenue caps so they can pay for everything from police liaison officers and nurses to grass cutting and snow plowing. Since 2003, school districts have been allowed to collect more than $1.8 million under the exemption, according to records from the state Department of Public Instruction, which has to approve all requests under the law.

Non revenue limited spending growth in the Madison School District’s Fund 80 has drawn local attention. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel applauds this loophole.