If the state Legislature passes the 2013–15 budget in its initially proposed form, the Platteville School District will start its 2013–14 budget process with a deficit of almost $70,000.
That is good news compared to the budget state of other school districts, according to school superintendent Connie Valenza.
The budget deficit may be three times that amount, however, if the school district has to add teachers in third, fourth and fifth grades next year.
Platteville is in “much better shape than other districts,” Valenza said, because of the increase in enrollment this school year from the closing of St. Mary’s School last June. “The Platteville School District is probably in the best shape around, and that’s because of growing enrollment.”
The enrollment increase will mean more state aid this coming school year and the following school year.
However, projected student-to-teacher ratios in next year’s third through fifth grades are “not optimal in terms of size,” said Valenza. To “fix all those levels, that would be three additional teachers right there” at an estimated cost of $50,000 per teacher.
“It looks to me as though if it’s true if we’re frozen on our revenue, we’re probably going to have to be in a cutting mode, which will have to go into staff,” she said.
The budget numbers presented Monday by district business manager Art Beaulieu include “a slight increase in our budget on the revenue side assuming there’s a freeze in [state and federal] revenue, and that’s because of an increase in enrollment.”
Beaulieu’s estimates include a 1.15 percent increase in state equalized aid, and a 0.88-percent increase in federal Title I and Title II funding. But with current state revenue limits, the school district would have a deficit of $69,349.
The school district’s 2013–14 budget, based on those first estimates, would be $15.51 million, up 1.03 percent from the 2012–13 budget. Assuming no increase in property valuation either, that would result in a mil rate of $11.43 per $1,000 assessed valuation, up from this year’s mil rate of $11.27 per $1,000 assessed valuation.
The fact that the state budget has “no actual proposal for a revenue increase” for schools “would be very difficult for us as a district,” said Valenza.
If the state gives more money for schools but does not allow “additional funding from the school district perspective” — an increase in revenue limits — the additional school funding would go to reduce property taxes, she said.
One culprit is proposed expansion of the state school choice program. The budget proposed by Gov. Scott Walker would expand the program beyond Milwaukee to school districts of 4,000 or more students that have at least two low-rated schools according to the state school report card.
“It wouldn’t technically impact Southwest Wisconsin or Platteville schools directly,” said Valenza, except that “money that goes to voucher schools is money that doesn’t go to the public schools.”
However, a number of Republican senators, including Sen. Dale Schultz (R–Richland Center), have expressed opposition to expanding the school choice program beyond Milwaukee.
Beaulieu said the Platteville school district lost $104,000 in state equalized aid that went instead to the Milwaukee charter school program this school year.
Valenza said the budget may include additional funding that is “performance-based,” adding that Gov. Scott Walker “specifically refers to A and B school districts” as measured in the first statewide school report cards. Valenza predicted additional funding might be similar to the $50-per-student bonus school districts got for taxing to their levy limits in this budget year.
Three of Platteville’s schools — Platteville High School, Platteville Middle School and Westview Elementary School — ranked, respectively, first, fifth and eighth among southwest Wisconsin’s schools. All three ranked in the “Exceeds Expectations” category, compared to a B grade by the state Department of Public Instruction. (For ratings, go to www.swnews4u.com/archives/8513/ and www.swnews4u.com/archives/9133/.)