Here you go Tom: In this week's HI Tom Reason asks for an "Idiot's Guide" to the $1.2M projected budget shortfall the school district is facing.
To understand the deficit we must first explain the school finance system in WI. As I have explained before there are two major parts the to school finance puzzle: The "Revenue Limit" and the state aid formula.
1) General fund revenues are subject to the per pupil "Revenue Limit" set by the state. The Revenue limit for MG for the current school year is $10,404 per pupil for a total of $30.1M. That is what we get to spend on general operating expenses, such as paying teacher salaries and the utility bills. The only way to exceed the revenue limit is to hold a referendum asking for additional funds to be levied from local property taxes.
2) Once the revenue limit is set, the state uses a complicated formula to determine how much of the total revenue will come from the state budget. The formula is related to the number of students and the total property value in the district. Districts with lower property value per student will receive a higher proportion of state aid. In MG the state funding comes to about 1/3 of the revenue limit. The school district can then levy the remaining amount from local property taxes up to the revenue limit.
Between 1993 and 2011 the revenue limit has been increased by about 2% per year, a bit less than inflation. This has generally led to gradual, but over time significant, tightening of the belts in school districts across the state. By 2011 most districts were very lean, MG has a Staff/Management ratio more than double the private sector average; and teacher take home pay has been losing ground against inflation for some time.
The Biennial (2 year) budget past last summer included a 5.5% cut for state aids to schools for the 2011-12 school year and an equivalent cut in the revenue limit to prevent school districts from making up the short fall by increasing the local tax levy. For MG that is amounted to a reduction in revenue by about $1.4M; combined with enrollment changes and inflation of everything from health care to utilities that produced a $2.5 million deficit. We plugged that deficit by spending our federal stimulus dollars, $900K in cuts and $1.1M in reduced compensation to the employees of the district as mandated by Act 10.
For next year the Revenue limit will increase by $50 per student, but after inflation this is something like another 2.6% cut, and we lose the federal stimulus money that helped fill the gap this year. This means that for next year we have an estimated $1.2M deficit. Note that this is the 3rd year in a row with budget cuts in the range of $1M, and the cumulative effect will start to have a noticeable negative effect on education in the district.