Milton schools brace for $865,000 in cuts
MILTON A state-imposed spending cap would create a budget crisis for the Milton School District, broadening a $500,000 projected budget gap next year into a financial chasm of $890,000, district officials said.
Gov. Scott Walker's proposed biennial budget holds per-pupil state equalization aid for Milton at a zero increase, district officials said.
A district financial forecast made last December included an estimate that the district would get a boost in state aid of $100 per student. That's not happening.
The state Joint Committee on Finance will dig into the governor's biennial budget later this spring.
District Business Services Director Mary Ellen Van Valin said the proposed per-pupil spending cap would mean $344,000 less revenue than the district had anticipated.
District administrators broke the bad news to the school board's budget and finance committee last week.
Board member and budget and finance committee Chairman Bob Cullen this week called the broadening budget gap an "unanticipated" hardship for the district.
The board settled on a list of $865,000 in potential cuts presented by district administrators. Cullen called that list of cuts a "systematic approach to a bad situation."
The bulk of the cuts—about $505,000—are to a program that allows cash in lieu of benefits for employees who opt out of the district's employee health care plan.
Van Valin said the cash reimbursement wouldn't necessarily go away, but the district could reduce it to an amount that would "trim costs" yet would ensure the district remains a "marketable" workplace.
The list of proposed cuts also includes:
-- Reduction of two half-time early childhood teachers for a savings of $50,000.
-- Reduction of one high school teacher, one part-time school specialist and reduction in school office staff for a savings $134,000.
-- Athletic budget reduction of $22,300.
-- Undisclosed buildings and grounds cuts of $31,000.
Interim Superintendent Theresa Rusch said the district has tried to spare staff and programs that focus on reducing class sizes and that boost literacy and math proficiency.
The budget leaves some part-time and full-time reading and math interventionists and "coaches" in place next year and continues spending for current models to reduce class sizes at the elementary school level, Rusch said.
Rusch said the district also shelved a plan to sell off iPads from Milton Middle School. The school for the last two years has issued iPads to all of its students as part of the district's technology plan.
Rusch said the plan would have generated $100,000, but it would have meant selling the iPads at a loss. She said cutting back on technology in the classroom would "impact our instruction and our purpose in 21st-century instruction."
Another list of potential cuts included an option to close Consolidated Elementary School, but the board didn't seriously consider that possibility.
The district estimates the school's closure would save $158,000 in staff and operational costs.
Closure of Consolidated, which is south of Milton and holds about 90 students, is an option that has come up a few times in the past four years.
That idea has always drawn the ire of parents who say they like the school because of its rural setting and the individualized attention students there seem to receive.