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April 7, 2008

Madison School District Administration's Proposed 2008-2009 Budget Published

The observation of school district budgeting is fascinating. Numbers are big (9 or more digits) and the politics significant. Many factors affect such expenditures including local property taxes, state and federal redistributed tax dollars, enrollment, grants, referendums, new programs, politics and periodically local priorities. The Madison School District Administration released it's proposed 2008-2009 $367,806,712 budget Friday, April 4, 2008 (Allocations were sent to the schools on March 5, 2008 prior to the budget's public release Friday).

There will be a number of versions between this proposal and a final budget later this year (MMSD 2008-2009 Budget timeline).

I've summarized budget and enrollment information from 1995 through 2008-2009 below:

While enrollment has been flat, the student composition has significantly changed over the past decade. The District's documents discuss a projected 0.75% increase in spending from 2007-2008 to the 2008-2009 budget. However, the 07-08 numbers reference $17.7M for the new far west side elementary school, an amount not included in the most recent 2007-2008 Citizen's Budget.

Related links:Madison School District 4/4/2008 08/09 proposed budget documents:Finally, Susan Troller's April 5, article on the 2008-2009 budget included information on a potential November, 2008 operating referendum:
The referendum, which would ask taxpayers to override state-imposed revenue caps so services and programs would not have to be cut from the Madison Metropolitan School District, could take place as early as November, School Board President Arlene Silveira said Friday afternoon following a press briefing on the district's 2008-09 budget.

"The discussion between the Board of Education and the new superintendent about whether to go to referendum will surely be one of the first things on our agenda in July," Silveira said.

While the forecast for the district's budget in 2009-2010 looks gloomy, the news on the 2008-2009 budget is far more upbeat, thanks to a one-time $5.7 million windfall from the city.

This is an interesting dilemma for the Board and new Superintendent. On the one hand, the timing may be favorable given Dan Nerad's honeymoon period and a presidential vote generates far higher turnout than spring elections. The potential date presents an interesting contrast to just a few years ago, when the MMSD preferred to call (expensive) special elections, thinking that low turnout would benefit a yes vote. The most recent referendum, held on November 7, 2006 was a "high turnout" event - and the referendum passed handily.

Alternatively, there are no shortage of issues that will be on voter's minds in November: Wisconsin (and Madison's) per student spending ranks above much of the nation, yet our per capita income lags the national average and any number of local issues such as the scheme to replace middle and high school report cards and unresolved curriculum controversies in reading (more, including this) and math, one size fits all high school curriculum, high school "redesign" among many other topics.

Perhaps the new Superintendent might use his honeymoon capital for something more than the "same service" or cost to continue approach we've seen over the past decade.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at April 7, 2008 1:33 AM
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