Wheatland Center School District to trim budget and try another referendum

wheatland-school-busThe Wheatland Center School District Board has decided to trim its budget but also pursue another referendum in an effort to handle projected deficits for coming years.

The board decided on the strategy at a meeting earlier this week.

A communication for prepared for district parents and signed by district administrator Marty McGinley says administration and the board have already identified about $250,000 in budget cuts that could be implemented for 2014-15. Changes in personnel account for most of the savings, with one of the major changes being the district utilizing its own staff to provide services for students with severe health impairments, students diagnosed with disabilities prior to school age, and students needing speech and language services instead of contracting these programs through the Westosha Special Education Alliance and CESA 2.

A date for the referendum or an amount it will seek to authorize over the state-imposed revenue limit has not been set.

“We will be meeting in late May or early June to discuss those very options,” McGinley said. “Once we have more information we will make a definitive decision on when we will go to referendum and the amount we will need to insure financial stability. There has not been a definitive decision on that yet.”

An  April 1 referendum sought approval of a non-recurring referendum for four years — $750,000 for each school/budget year. It was defeated with 286 no votes and 233 yes votes.

Without additional revenue next year, the school district is facing an estimated $460,000 deficit and will have essentially no fund balance, McGinley has said.

The whole statement to parents as supplied to westofthei.com by McGinley follows:

Dear Member of the Wheatland Family:

In the wake of the failed referendum for the Wheatland J1 School District the Board of Education has met to consider our financial options. Although we have experienced unprecedented growth in enrollment and achievement in the last several years, the state funding formula has presented us with a funding predicament. We are projecting a $460,000 deficit next year due to state imposed revenue limits. When exploring the overall impact, it was soon clear that it would be educationally unsound for a school our size to cut enough to cover our current operational deficit. It was also clear that some adjustments had to be made to bring costs down.

While looking at all available options the Wheatland J1 School Board has decided to approach the revenue limit gap through a combination of cuts and a future referendum. Throughout the year many reductions have been made and salaries and benefits have been frozen, however, inflationary costs continue to rise and without a referendum the revenue limit will inhibit current and future educational opportunities. We have made initial adjustments to all district department budgets where allowable, and will be assessing additional efficiencies in our overall budget in the coming weeks and months as we finalize the 2014-15 budget. We are a personnel intensive enterprise and so the majority of our budget goes to salaries and benefits. Schools need teachers and support staff to educate students. Although we have 40 more students in our classrooms this year we have to try and do more with less. When looking at areas for staffing reductions there was an effort to reduce non-instructional personnel first. The primary guidelines used to determine cuts were changes that would have the least impact on instruction and achievement, adjustments that would allow for the continuation of important educational programs and initiatives, and reductions that would provide significant savings.

One of the major changes for the 2014-15 school year will involve the Wheatland School District utilizing its own staff to provide services for students with severe health impairments, students diagnosed with disabilities prior to school age, and students needing speech and language services. We currently contract these programs through the Westosha Special Education Alliance and CESA 2. Over the last several years we have been working to strengthen our overall special education programming to prepare for the option of creating our own program utilizing Wheatland’s current qualified staff members.

The district will also discontinue the practice of having special area teachers take on interventions and additional supervision as part of their teaching day. We will be utilizing our content area teachers to deliver additional interventions, thereby increasing our operational efficiency and program continuity. This will necessitate a reduction in special area teaching staff, but will not reduce program offerings to students. By reorganizing our interventions we were also able to honor a teachers request to be part-time by utilizing our current math interventionist for additional teaching duties in 5th grade social studies saving 40% of an FTE.

In addition, we will be replacing a full time secretary through retirement, and we will be hiring two part time positions without benefits to generate additional savings. There will be additional reductions in hours and benefits for several of our support staff whose work is not governed by Individual Education Plans, including our library aide, our language lab aide, and our full time custodian.

Every attempt was made in making these staffing adjustments to limit the impact on educational programming. In total we will be reducing our staffing by more than 2 Full Time Equivalent (FTE) staff members and utilizing others differently, which will reduce our budget by nearly $250,000, or over 5% of our staffing budget. The Wheatland J1 School District remains committed to providing a quality education to our students, while being fiscally responsible to our local taxpayers.

Please engage in the process in future months as we seek input and finalize decisions regarding our long-term financial outlook. If you have additional questions please contact me at 262-537-2216. Thank you for supporting Wheatland School.


Marty McGinley

District Administrator


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