01STOCK_JANESVILLE_SCHOOLS

The Janesville School District won’t see the full effect of its operating referendum for the 2022-23 year, as decreasing enrollment will cut its effectiveness nearly in half.

In the second year of the district’s $7 million recurring operating referendum, it can raise its tax levy by $4 million for the upcoming academic year. But the district would only see a net gain of $2.1 million as a result of reduced state aid.

During a budget assumptions presentation to the school board at its meeting Tuesday, April 12, district Chief Financial Officer Dan McCrea told board members the district is planning to bring the board a balanced budget that prioritizes expenses based on the district’s “Five Promises” mission statement. McCrea added that the assumptions presentation is meant as a primer for the board as it looks to the academic year ahead with no new funds coming from the state.

“They’re guardrails; they’re not necessarily absolutes,” he said. “There is no revenue increase for school districts in the state of Wisconsin unless your district is growing in membership. The allowable value in the revenue levy limit is not increasing.”

The district, like others across the state, has been met with challenging budget forecasts for the 2022-23 school year. The state’s 2021-23 biennial budget provides no additional per-pupil taxing authority like it had in previous years, as the Republican-controlled Legislature put forth a budget later signed by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers that asked districts to instead use their federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds to fill gaps in their budgets.

The decrease in per-pupil aid is combined with cost-of-living base wage adjustments for employees nearing 5% based on numbers from the state Department of Revenue—nearly double the highest percentage public employee unions had been able to collectively bargain in a decade—which puts Janesville in a tough spot. Costs are rising, but there’s no additional money to work with.

Other employee benefit costs are projected to increase, as well, including a 9% jump in health insurance premium costs for employees. To help reduce costs, the district will ask eligible employees to consider enrolling in a Family Advantage Health Plan, which would help pay for employee deductibles and copays for employees who switch to a spouse’s health insurance plan.

Implementing the Family Advantage Health Plan would help save the district just over $1 million, which would equal the fixed cost increase the district is anticipating having to pay for the following year.

Another topic administrators raised but didn’t discuss at length was the possibility of adjusting the teacher-student ratio in the district. District policy currently limits class sizes in kindergarten through third grade at 25 students and at 30 students in grades four through eight. At the high school level, a class section closes when 32 students have registered for it.

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