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Elkhorn School Board grapples with tax increase plan

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STANLEY B. MILAM
May 15, 2012
— Spending is down and enrollment is stable, but property taxes likely will increase.

That is the scenario facing the Elkhorn Area School District and its board. District Superintendent Greg Wescott outlined budget options for the board Monday.


In most respects, board members are faced with difficult choices.


"The most difficult part about this budget is that we are recommending a net reduction in expenditures, but state limits could require us to raise taxes," Wescott said. "It's not a logical process."


State revenue caps established 18 years ago remain a limiting factor for the district. Elkhorn was then and remains at or near the bottom of the 80 southeastern Wisconsin districts in its group in terms of the cap.


"We are experiencing a $526 per pupil decrease in the revenue cap," Wescott said. "With an enrollment of 3,200, you can see how even with a spending decreasing, we are facing a deficit."


The projected deficit for the 2012-13 school year, if the district maintains current programming and staffing levels, is $452,000. Budget addition options bring the deficit to $830,000.


Optional additions include:


-- Two additional high school teachers.


-- An additional kindergarten teacher.


-- An additional school psychologist.


-- Additional tech support.


-- A new testing system.


-- An additional contribution to the alternative high school program.


-- An increase in property insurance.


Optional budget reductions include:


-- Savings in employee insurance plans.


-- One high school teaching position left vacant.


-- One vacant aide position left open.


-- One less elementary intern position.


-- Student transportation adjustments.


-- A 4 percent reduction in supplies and staff travel.


The total savings amounts to $879,000, leaving a budget surplus of nearly $50,000.


A major factor in the district's budget considerations is its contract with teachers.


"We are an Act 10 district, but we decided to proceed with a contract that preserved collective bargaining with the understanding there would be adjustments in retiree and health insurance costs," Wescott said. "That has allowed us to move forward with a staffing plan that comes closer to meeting the needs of our students."


The administration and board remain committed to the district's 220 teachers, Wescott said.


"We are proud of our teachers and how they have focused on students during these stressful times in Madison over collective bargaining," he said.



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