Revenue cuts in the proposed state budget will cost the Whitefish Bay School District more than $2 million, but district officials are waiting to see how the budget repair bill impacts their ability to offset those losses.
At Wednesday night’s school board meeting, Whitefish Bay School District Business Manager Shawn Yde said Walker’s biennium budget would cut 8 to 9 percent of Whitefish Bay School District’s state aid, forcing the district to make $2.06 million in reductions in 2011-12, as state-imposed revenue limits prevent the district from raising taxes to meet the shortfall.
Walker has said school districts and municipalities will be able to make up for the substantial cuts in state aid through provisions of his budget repair bill that would limit collective bargaining rights for teachers to a capped wage increase.
Senate Republicans passed an amended version of the bill Wednesday night that kept intact the provisions to limit collective bargaining. The bill is expected to be passed by the State Assembly on Thursday.
Yde said he will calculate the local effects of the budget repair bill if it is passed into law, but he did not release any figures during Wednesday’s meeting. The budget repair bill would require teachers to pay 5.8 percent of their salary into their Wisconsin Retirement System pension program, of which the district currently contributes 11.6 percent of employee salaries. As a result, Yde said the district would save $810,839, but those costs would be transferred to school employees.
“That would now be borne directly by the employees of the district,” Yde said. “At this point, it should come as no surprise that the governor is looking to decrease costs associated with public employee compensation. The Senate bill would allow districts to shift additional budget reductions necessary to balance the budget to reductions in employee benefits, so that programs could be preserved while decreasing overall employee compensation. In this period of reductions and expenditures, the district will continue to follow our principals to guide our decision-making.”
Superintendent Mary Gavigan said the district is waiting for more to play out on the state level before announcing any plans to cut expenditures.
“You’re hearing the district reaffirm its commitment to excellence,” she said. “You’re hearing the district reaffirm its ability to recruit and retain. You’re hearing a reaffirmation of fiscal responsibility, and you’re hearing a reaffirmation of continuous improvement moving to the future.”
Gavigan said the budget cuts do not mean an automatic cut in programs and services.
“Please know we are looking at all possible options and opportunities to bring in a balanced budget within that reduced revenue cap authority,” she said.
Walker presented his budget two months late, and it will likely be a complicated road ahead before the board approves its budget by its July 1 deadline.
Despite the hurried timetable, School Board President Marie Greco said there will be opportunities for public input in the future to gauge the community’s priorities.
“Although we are compressed, this is a board that has worked many more than just the normal meetings in the last two years," she said, "and we will continue to do whatever we have to do to get the kind of input we need to get from our community and make the right decision for our children.”