School board members ponder possible budget actions

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Representatives of some Western Kenosha County school districts got together Wednesday night as part of an effort to improve communications, but inevitably that communication turned to Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed state budget.

Walker is proposing a cut of about $834 million in stat aide to schools. Districts would also face limits on how much they could levy in property taxes to make uo the difference.

While most of the board members — those from Bristol, Wheatland Center and Central High School– did not yet have hard numbers to attach to the impact of the governor’s budget on their district’s budget, they did begin to swap some ideas on how they might cope with anticipated reductions in state aid.

Shane Gerber, president of the Salem School District Board, said his business manager anticipates the district could receive as much as $500,000 less in state aid under the governor’s budget.

While he acknowledged that the final impact will not be known until the budget process is complete, Gerber said he anticipates some reduction in funding even ina  best case scenario.

“I don’t have any hope that it won’t go through,” Gerber said.

Said Central’s board President Mary Ellen Pearsall: “We’re going to lose jobs no matter what, even if this gets a little better.”

One of the key portion’s of Walker’s proposal is to eliminate the ability of public employees to collectively bargain on benefits like pensions and health insurance. That could provide some savings for districts, but likely not enough to cover the loss in state aid, Pearsall said.

“Cutting the insurance will help, but you’ll still have to cut personnel and programs, I’m afraid,” Pearsall said.

One of the more radical ideas being bandied about is shorting the school week to four days. That would save districts a whole day of some costs such as transportation, school lunch personnel and supplies and some building costs like heat and air conditioning.

But all acknowledged that such a change would likely generate a lot of backlash in the community from parents having to arrange daycare.

“I am hoping that wouldn’t happen,” Pearsall said.

In general, the board members planned to meet again the next two months to share budget coping information. And they pledged to continue to share ideas and information.

The state budget will likely face months of debate and revisions.





  1. v says:

    Were ALL the school districts involved/invited in this or only these four (?)…

    1. admin says:

      This was hosted by Central, and my understanding is that all of the Central feeder districts were invited. — DH

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