Wisconsin School District Budget Outlook

Matthew DeFour:

Educators across Wisconsin blame 20 years of state-imposed limits on how much revenue they can generate from state aid and property taxes for perennial program cuts and increasing class sizes. When former Gov. Tommy Thompson introduced the limits in 1993 to help keep a lid on property taxes, he also committed the state to covering two-thirds of the cost of K-12 education, but the state share has declined to about 62 percent.
“The revenue limit is the villain,” said Jamie Benson, superintendent of the River Valley School District just west of Dane County, which recently approved $630,000 in cuts, including 13 layoffs that affect art, English, business, technical education and computer classes.
The layoffs were based on the state increasing funding $50 per student. An increase of $200 per student might spare three of those layoffs, Benson said. Portage’s layoffs are based on no increase.
“You can’t have a revenue cap increase per year that goes up at 2 percent or less when your expenses, whether it’s lighting, gas, books, technology or staff, go up at a higher rate,” Benson said.

Related: Madison School District’s Final 2012-2013 Budget: $385,911,793. 2012-2013 enrollment is 27095 PK-12. 2012-2013 per student spending is $14,242.