Despite School Budget Crunch, Staffing Levels Remain Steady
The district will lose less than one full-time employee position next year, while cutting wages and benefit costs by 4.8 percent.
Despite a projected $2.1 million cut in state aid, the Whitefish Bay School Board has adopted a staffing plan that eliminates less than one full time employee position.
The plan unanimously approved by the board Wednesday night calls for the elimination of the equivalent of 0.6 full-time positions. A counselor position and a Cumberland School teaching position have been cut to reflect student-teacher ratio throughout the metropolitan area, said Mark Kapocius, the district's human resources director. A total of 1.4 special education positions will be added at the high school.
The district currently contracts 11 counselors, and as part of the staffing plan, the district will be laying off its most senior counselor.
Kapocius said another layoff would have been necessary at Richards School, due to declining enrollment, but one teacher resigned to move to England.
"By her resigning, we avoided layoffs," Kapocius said.
The district has already budgeted for the two, potentially three, staff members to retire from the district at the end of this school year.
The district expects to enroll 21 more students next year. The district's enrollment has steadily increased from 2,547 students in 2009-10 to 2,579 students in 2010-2011 to a projected 2,600 in 2011-2012.
Even with the reduction of a teacher at Cumberland, class sizes will still be kept at about 21 to 22 students in that school, said Superintendent Mary Gavigan. The budget does not call for any programs to be eliminated.
"We are feeling very good about our budget plan," Gavigan said.
The staffing plan was used to create a proposed budget, although much of the information is based upon state aid estimates that are not yet available.
The district expects a $2.1 million cut in state aid under Gov. Scott Walker's biennial budget, but that number is not confirmed because the Department of Public Instruction has not released official aid amounts yet, said Shawn Yde, the district's director of business services.
“The aid projections that are in place are projections that I made,” Yde said. “They will change. They absolutely will change.”
Under the district's proposed budget, the owner of a $300,000 house would pay $3,243 in taxes, a $42 drop from last year. The proposed tax rate would decrease from $10.95 per $1,000 of assessed value to $10.81 per $1,000.
The tax levy would decrease by $273,904, from $21,542,814 to $21,268,910.
The preliminary data show the loss in state aid could be offset, in large part, by a 4.8 percent cut in salary and benefit costs that totals roughly $1.5 million. The cuts primarily come through salary freezes, increased employee contributions to pension costs, health insurance plan design changes.
Specifically, if Walker’s budget repair bill withstands legal challenge and takes effect, the district expects to save $810,839 in pension costs, as the bill requires public employees to contribute 5.8 percent of their salaries to the Wisconsin Retirement System pension program. The district currently bears that cost, as part of the 11.6 percent of employee salaries that it contributes toward the pension program.
The district saved another $300,000 by modifying health insurance plans, such as changing prescription drug plans and increasing office visit copayments. The district is not asking employees to increase their 8 percent contribution to health insurance premiums.
The district does not participate in the state health insurance pool, so it is not bound by the budget repair bill’s requirement that state employees contribute 12 percent toward their health insurance benefits.
The district also is expecting an $82,000 increase in revenue next year. Enrollment growth is expected to increase the district's revenue cap, bringing in an additional $77,000, and fee increases will boost revenue by another $5,000.
The staffing plan and the district's proposed budget is also based upon the assumption that the budget repair bill will become the law.
"This entire budget is predicated upon the passage of that piece of legislation," Yde said. "If the legislation was not passed, we would almost be starting from scratch again with significant layoffs."
Whitefish Bay High School math teacher Christine Kiefer thanked the board and district staff for keeping teachers informed about the development of the budget.
"I really appreciate the fact that we haven't had many layoffs and your commitment to upholding the standards for education we have here in Whitefish Bay, to keeping the student-to-teacher ratio small, giving students as much help as they need," she said. "I really appreciate your dedication to that."