Edgerton School Board OKs 20% levy increase
Some might see the lack of community response to a 20 percent levy increase as proving his point.
The district approved the $9.37 million levy and the accompanying budget Monday with little discussion and no debate. Though a handful of residents attended the meeting, none spoke about the proposed budget.
The budget includes a 4.4 percent increase in expenditures but a 20.3 percent levy increase, a difference of $1.6 million over last year.
Most of that increase ties directly to a loss in state aid, Edgerton officials said. The district received $1.1 million less in 2009-10 than it did in 2008-09, a 10 percent drop.
Most school districts got less aid from the most recent state budget, but Edgerton's drop was higher than average. The 10 percent decrease ranked 119th out of 426 districts in the state and highest in Rock County, according to Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction data.
State aid is distributed according to a formula that measures district property values versus number of students. In the past, Edgerton got a lot of aid because it had low property value per student, Business Manager Mark Worthing said.
But the ratio has been going up in recent years, with property value growing and enrollment dropping. That makes the cuts suffered by all Wisconsin districts even steeper for Edgerton.
Meanwhile, district costs have increased, most notably salaries. Teachers received a 4.2 percent increase in salary and benefits in their contract.
"Basically that's 75 percent of our budget going up 4.2 percent and our revenues essentially going backwards," Worthing said.
The district anticipated revenue losses this year and responded by cutting 17 positions—eight teachers, eight support staff and one custodian—though federal stimulus money allowed it to rehire one support staff member and one special education teacher.
The cuts have hurt staff and increased class sizes, Fjelstad said.
"There have been tears," he said. "There have been people who have been hurting."
The district also cut $50,000 from its maintenance budget and froze its computer replacement schedule, saving $100,000 in 2009-10.
Edgerton received a little more than $500,000 in stimulus money, but that money must be used to help special education and low-income students, Worthing said. The stimulus program was designed to boost education spending, not replace local spending.
"It helped the budget in a way, but really it was just so we were able to keep some staff and not have to lay them off," Worthing said "It's so pigeon-holed where you have to spend that money."
School Board President Brian Donnelly said he hasn't received any complaints from residents about the levy increase. But he has heard concern from parents about the decrease in staff and increase in class sizes.
"Some parents recognize or realize that teaching staff are getting stretched a little thin," he said. "I think anyone in education would be foolish to say that this isn't impacting students and learning."
Donnelly believes most residents realize the board is doing the best it can with the hand it's been dealt, he said.
"I think there would be more of an outcry if people thought we were spending the money improperly," he said.
Edgerton School District Budget
A look at the 2009-10 budget for the Edgerton School District.
2009-10: $20.69 million
2008-09: $19.81 million
2009-10 :$9.37 million
2008-09: $7.79 million
(Per $1,000 of assessed valuation)
Note: Percent changes calculated on whole numbers.