After a few days to digest Gov. Scott Walker's budget, local school officials say the cuts are deeper than what they had anticipated.
Walker's budget, unveiled Tuesday, would cut $834 billion in state aid to local school districts over two years. It also would reduce the revenue limit — the amount that districts can collect in state aid and property taxes — by 5.5 percent.
Gary Swalve, business manager at Maple Dale Indian Hill School District, said the cuts were more than what officials had anticipated, but he has an idea why.
"It’s not what anybody was expecting," Swalve said. "What we were hearing prior to Tuesday's budget announcement was a number of $500 or $550 (cut per student). I think that may have been confused was $550 compared to 5.5 percent because nobody saw it in print prior to Tuesday. That’s dramatic for us. The impact of that is almost $350,000."
The Fox Point-Bayside School District is feeling the same pain. While administrators expected the same estimate, a cut of roughly $500 per student, they are anticipating a total loss of $700,000 if Walker's budget is passed by the Legislature.
"We’re going to suffer next year. It's a cut of $700,000 and that’s a lot of money for a small district like ours," District Administrator Rachel Boechler said.
"It feels like a setup. It's going too fast," she said. "I understand that we have to change, we have to cut the state budget, I get that. I’m all for it, but you can’t change the rules midstream. It will harm our instructional program next year for sure.
"If we had time to adapt, that would have helped, but we’re having to adapt to something where the rules changed," Boechler added. "I’m going to work very hard to hang onto teachers and programs that are important to his district."
Boechler also said the morale of teachers is suffering, and that makes circumstances even more difficult.
"The morale of our teachers has been very much depleted," she said. "They feel like they are being beaten up by the press, and aren’t feeling supported. It’s important for them to understand how valued hey are, but also that we need to balance our budget."
Nicole High School will see the deepest cut in state aid compared to the other local districts. With the revenue cap cut by 5.5 percent, Nicolet will lose $944 per student, as opposed to the $500 or so officials were expecting.
That comes to a loss of $1.5 million for the distrtict.
But if Walker's budget repair bill is approved, it could offset some of these costs.
That bill, which in lingering in the Legislature, requires teachers and other public employees to pay more of their pension and health care costs, and removes most bargaining rights. Walker says those changes would help offset the cuts in state aid.
But even if the budget repair bill passes, District Adminstrator Rick Monroe said Nicolet will still be in the hole by about $500,000.
"It’s going to negatively impact us financially," Monroe said of the budget. "It’s going to impact students because it’s going to require us to make reductions in our budget and our budget is to support students. We don’t know where the cuts are going to come from, but we’ll have to make cuts."