Whitefish Bay Schools Aim to Cut Budget Without Cutting Teachers
Preliminary data show district is $300,000 shy of offsetting a $2.1 million loss in state aid.
The Whitefish Bay School District's projected $2.1 million loss in state aid in 2011-12 may be managed without cutting teachers or increasing class sizes, district officials say.
Preliminary projections show the district is within $300,000 of closing a $2.1 million shortfall in state aid, as proposed under Gov. Scott Walker’s biennial budget, according to Mary Gavigan, district superintendent.
The preliminary data show the loss in state aid could be offset, in large part, by more than $1.7 million in wage and benefits cuts, primarily through salary freezes and increased employee contributions to pension costs, and by an $82,000 increase in district revenue.
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 it contributes toward the pension program.
Custodians are the only employee group whose contract will not expire June 30, but they also have agreed to start contributing 5.8 percent toward their pensions. The concession in custodial benefits would save the district $85,000.
The district also will save about $468,543 through salary freezes for non-union employees.
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 employees contribute 12 percent toward their health insurance benefits.
As the district works to balance its budget, Gavigan said, the district will examine health insurance plan design changes to improve plan offerings without increasing premium costs.
“We are looking at it from a venue of, ‘How can we bring about good quality health insurance and still bring about savings?' ” she said. "Those (questions) are the spirit of the discussions that are going on.”
The district expects to save $160,000 through staff reductions and $155,146 with non-salary budget reductions.
Gavigan said district officials are looking to eliminate two full-time employees somewhere within the district, but she said they are not sure which positions will be cut.
She said a reducing staff by two full-time employee positions would not be unusual, particularly given the state budgeting proposal, and other districts have been hit much, much worse.
“That would have been there before the budget repair bill, and it would be very common and typical for what the school district does every year,” she said.
On the revenue side of the equation, 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.
Gavigan said the preliminary projections are meant to provide working data as the School Board works to pass a budget by July 1.
“You’re seeing a plan that is designed to bring in a balanced budget, protect programs and services, protect class size and bring stability to a system within a matter of months,” she said.