How can school district best fill budget gap?
Janesville School Board President Bill Sodemann drew attention with a comment he made at a meeting last week. He suggested that the board should send layoff notices to all district employees.
He wasn’t serious, of course. His comment did what it was intended to do—draw attention to the district’s budget predicament. State law requires districts to issue contracts months before budget pictures become clear. Teachers must be notified of layoffs by May 1. The only way around that, Sodemann says, is to issue layoff notices to all, though he realizes that makes no sense because it would harm the staff.
On Tuesday, the board will review a staffing plan that cuts about $324,000. It trims a few teaching positions, mainly in special education.
The staffing plan would lock in up to 60 percent of next year’s spending. The proposed cuts won’t go far to fill a budget gap estimated at between $8 million and $10 million.
Last year the district shed 110 jobs in budget-cutting efforts. Could it reasonably shed more staffing dollars than the $324,000 recommended?
The district might be in better shape had it taxed property owners to the maximum allowable by state law in recent years. The more a district taxes, the more state aid it reaps. The board last year again opted against a maximum tax to help residents struggling to recover from the recession of recent years. That was the seventh time in the last nine years that the board raised taxes below the maximum level.
Would having taxed to the max improved district finances,or would it have just led to more spending and a deficit similar to today’s? Would those maximum taxes have buried more property owners who already struggle to pay what they owe?
What other options does the board have for filling a budget hole so deep? We’ll explore the choices and offer perspectives in our editorial Sunday.