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$180,000 deficit for Fennimore Schools?
Walker's budget contains no revenue limit increase
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Gov. Scott Walker’s budget, which was set to be unveiled Feb. 20, will make balancing the 2013-2014 budget difficult for District Administrator Jamie Nutter and the administrative team of the Fennimore Community School District.

“Next year will be my sixth budget and I will have less revenue in the upcoming budget than I did in my first,” Nutter said Monday afternoon.

Walker plans to increase state aid by one percent, according to the Associated Press. Walker’s proposal to increase state aid comes after he cut aid by more than eight percent in the first year of the last budget.

Members of the Fennimore Community Schools Board of Education were briefed on Walker’s projected budget during a board meeting Wednesday evening, Feb. 13.

Nutter told those in attendance it is important to recognize the difference between state aid and property tax relief when reviewing Walker’s budget.

“You have to be careful not to confuse the two,” he said. “There are two variables when you look at school funding, one is the revenue limit and one is state aid.

“State aid is basically used to give us a credit for our property taxes. The more state aid we get, and if the revenue limit remains the same, our property taxes are going to be lower.”

State Superintendent Tony Evers had requested a $225 increase per student in the revenue limit during year one of Walker’s budget, and a $240 increase per student in the second year.

Nutter told board members that the Wisconsin Association of School Boards advised given the other needs of the state, a $200 per student increase in the revenue limit was more realistic.

“What I think will happen will be the state will budget for, say a $200 increase per student, but then our revenue limit will only be allowed to go up $150 or something less than that,” Nutter said Feb. 13. “Because then that gives us more money in our schools, and it also gives us property tax relief at the same time.”

Nutter explained based on the expenses that are known to the school district, an increase of $247 per student would be needed for the district to break even for the 2013-2014 budget.

Monday afternoon, Nutter learned Walker’s proposed budget calls for no increase in the revenue limit. He had reviewed such a scenario with board members less than a week before.

“If we got a zero dollar increase, right now we would be looking at a $180,000 deficit for next year,” Nutter said. “Let’s say we get $200 of revenue cap relief, that would put us somewhere around the $135,000 to $145,000 mark, which would put our deficit at $57,000.

“So, we are definitely going to have a deficit next year. We are looking at different options.”

Walker’s proposed budget will allow him to make good on his goal to provide property tax relief, but will put many school districts, including Fennimore’s, in a pinch.

“What this will do is drop property taxes, but schools won’t have any new money,” Nutter said Monday afternoon. “It is going to be a tough go.

“A lot of schools are going to have to rely on salary cuts or staffing cuts.”

Nutter will provide the board with further information at the board’s next meeting, scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 28.

Budget update

On the same evening President Barack Obama shared his State of the Union address with the nation, the board learned the state of the school district’s 2012-2013 budget.

“When you look at the overall budget as of January 30, you can see for the school year we are 54 percent through the school year,” Nutter said. “And for the fiscal year, we are 59 percent through the fiscal year.”

Nutter provided a report listing major expenses other than salaries, which listed $239,281 in major expenses other than salary. As of Jan. 30, $134,631.67 had been expended.

“Overall, for the summary of the major expenses other than salary, we are about 56 percent through our budget,” Nutter said. “That is about three percent ahead.

“Obviously, we will get hammered with fuel one or two more times this year...then we use less electricity in April and May, and things start to even out.

“That is kind of where we are at right now. Things seem to be moving right on pace.”

The 2012-2013 revised budget includes $73,042 in electricity costs. As of Jan. 30, $35,947.01 (49.21 percent) has been spent.

“Probably the biggest comparison this school year and fiscal year would be bus route fuel,” Nutter said.

The 2012-2013 revised budget includes $37,000 in bus route fuel costs. As of Jan. 30, $16,086.98 (43.48 percent) has been spent.

On the heels of a mild winter last year, in which only $35,730 was spent on gas for heat, $47,600 was included in the 2012-2013 revised budget.

“We couldn’t expect to have the same sort of winter, so we budgeted about 12 percent more for gas for heat,” Nutter said. “We are on pace to hit the $47,000.”

As of Jan. 30, $16,050.75 has been spent on gas for heat.

Summer driver’s education

Later in the meeting, the board unanimously approved a change to the district’s driver’s education class. The classes will now be held in the summer.

A partnership with Southwest Wisconsin Technical College (SWTC) allows the class to be scheduled during the school day at the present time.

“It is getting harder and harder to find instructors who will drive to Fennimore for 45 minutes twice a week,” Nutter said. “What they would like to do is offer it during the summer and instead of spreading it out over a long period of time, have a more condensed class in the summer.”

No staffing expense is incurred by the school district. All fees are paid directly to SWTC.

“We won’t have an instructor if we don’t move it,” Nutter said. “We are glad Southwest Tech offers the service.”

The behind-the-wheel portion of driver’s education will continue to be held throughout the school year.

In other action, the board:

• approved donations from the Maroon & Gold Athletic Club for the weight room at Fennimore High School.

The Maroon & Gold Athletic Club will purchase a “Top Ten” board for the weight room for $1,389 and $665.83 for weight room equipment and supplies.

“The Maroon & Gold wrote the check directly for this equipment and they would like to donate its ownership to the school,” Nutter said. “We are really appreciative they would think about our weight room and the accomplishments of our athletes.”

• approved the sale of two vans for salvage for $300 each. The purchaser will remove the vans from school district property.

• approved the investigation of a limited post-employment incentive with a sunset provision for staff of the school district as a cost-savings strategy.

“I think the key word in this action item is investigating,” Nutter said. “What I am asking is permission to look into this a little more in-depth.”

Nutter explained at this time last year he would have been able to reveal the cost savings and economic impact of such action, but that is no longer the case.

“But right now, there is new legislation called the Affordable Care Act, which basically changes health care offerings within an organization from a benefit to a right,” Nutter said. “That is my understanding, for anybody that is 30 hours or more.

“That could have several ramifications. We are waiting for the rule to be written for that. So right now I would like permission to formally investigate it and provide a good recommendation based on all the factors, including the Affordable Care Act.

“Again, we are not offering a package and we are not looking at anything concrete. I just want to be transparent about that.”

The Fennimore Community School District is the ninth experience district in the state, with an average experience of 19 years.

• approved May 15 as the date of the 2013 retirement recognition. To date, no staff members have announced their retirement.