Enrollment drop in Milton further dampens chance of referendum
MILTON An enrollment drop might be the final nail in the coffin for the possibility of a Milton School District referendum this year.
“Right now we’re going to focus on how to deal with the budget issues we’re going to be facing over the next couple of years,” said Rob Roy, school board president. “Things like the referendum are on hold.”
According to the district’s September count, the district has 37 fewer students than it did last September. That follows a 20-student drop in September 2008.
The school’s full-time enrollment, which counts all students living in the district without taking open enrollment into account, dropped by 38.
That number is a factor in determining the district’s state-imposed revenue limit. The decrease means the district can collect $120,000 less in property tax than it expected, said Dianne Meyer, district business manager.
District administrators now are trying to figure out where that $120,000 will come out of the budget.
Roy said the enrollment decrease was bigger than he expected but understandable given Rock County’s job losses.
“People are moving where the jobs are, and right now they’re not in Rock County,” he said.
Until last year, enrollment was increasing by about 100 students a year in the Milton district, largely because of growth on Janesville’s northeast side. The district created a plan to build a new high school and move the middle school into the existing high school building at a cost of $76.7 million.
But the school board put the plan on hold last year as the economic recession deepened, and it’s not likely to take it up again this year, Roy said.
Even board member Wilson Leong, an enthusiastic supporter of the high school plan, said now is not the time to ask voters to approve the project.
“Obviously with the economic conditions, I want to be realistic,” he said.
He noted that 42 people came to the district’s annual meeting, and the proposed 10-percent levy increase barely passed on a 22-20 vote.
“We heard loud and clear that people are hurting, so we want to be sensitive,” he said.
Instead, the board will focus on budget problems and reaching a settlement with the teachers union, Roy said. The union contract expired July 1.
“Those two things probably will take precedence over any new programs or any expansion in facilities,” Roy said.