Budget Hangs On Enrollment Middleton Watching Numbers
The Capital Times Tuesday, July 11, 2006
By Christopher Michaels
Increased enrollment in the weeks preceding the start of the school year could mean more state aid for the Middleton-Cross Plains School District. It also could mean an easing of planned staff reductions of special concern to one of the district’s elementary schools.
Teachers and parents from Park Elementary School in Cross Plains are asking the School Board to do what it can to avoid staff cuts at their school, which has a number of special needs students.
In a preliminary 2006-07 district budget approved by the School Board Monday, the tax rate remains unchanged from the 2005-06 school year. However, state revenue limits mean the district has had to reduce its budget by about $1.4 million compared to last year.
That reduction is taking its toll on programs and staffing with about 15 positions districtwide being eliminated, said Superintendent Bill Reis. Some of those positions, including two teachers and available hours for educational assistants, are at Park.
Karla Freimuth, a third-grade teacher at Park, said that although the board faces tough budget decisions, special education students have high needs and can be dramatically helped by adding back one teacher.
“With your cutting the special needs teachers it’s like cutting the electricity,” said Jodi Green, the parent of a special needs child at Park. “You can cut sports or something instead of cutting something that is really needed for our children.”
Board member Bob Green said he’s concerned that the lateness of budget approval will give teachers at Park trouble dealing with reduced staffing. “I understand the concerns the teachers are bringing. I understand the concerns the parents are bringing. But we don’t have the money here,” he said.
Reis said that as of Monday the district was 75 students short of enrollment projections for next year. With state aid tied to enrollment, if none of those students show up, it could mean a loss of revenue of $200,000, he said. If more students enroll in the district before the start of the school year, that could have a positive effect on staffing.
He said it’s difficult to commit to numbers on staffing without having a clearer enrollment figure. The administration may have a better picture before the August 14 board meeting, he said.
“It’s not the way we want to do it, but we have to because of budget constraints,” said board member Ellen Lindgren. She emphasized that like many school districts, Middleton-Cross Plains has to wait for budget finalizations before hiring but still manages to hire excellent teachers in August.
Before the budget vote, Reis explained a change in revenue since the board last examined the budget June 26. Additional shared revenue from the state incorporated into the budget July 1 reduced the district’s estimated 2006-07 tax levy by more than $1 million. This leaves the district’s projected 2006-07 tax rate the same as last year at $9.25 per $1,000 in valuation.
Reis characterized the additional state aid as “very good news,” as well as the holding of the tax rate.
If approved in a final budget, the tax rate would mean the owner of a $200,000 home can expect to pay $1,850 in school taxes. The tax rate is based on an estimated 8 percent increase in property valuation over last year.
The district will conduct a budget hearing at its annual meeting August 21. Final budget approval and certification of the tax levy come after the start of the school year.