Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Riling the Edgerton community, Part 2

My saga of creating conflict in the City of Edgerton continued last week when I ran an article titled “School’s budget may lead to future cuts.”
The premise of the article is the Edgerton School District passed an unbalanced budget. The original budget had expenses $300,000 more than revenue. When they approved a revised budget, it jumped to a $900,000 gap, which they paid for out of fund balance. The budget did include $260,000 in one-time expenses for technology upgrades. I have no beef with that. But it also included at least $200,000 in salary and benefits. Well pardon me, but I do not think fund balance should pay for reoccuring costs. My article was based on budget documents and an interview with the Director of Business Services Mark Worthing.
The district administrator said the title was inaccurate (I disagree) and board member Sue Tronnes said she was disappointed in the article and called it an editorial. I venemently disagree. But what say you?

Here is the full story: 

On Monday, Oct. 28, the Edgerton School Board approved a revised 2013-14 budget for $309,899 less than the amount approved at the Annual Elector’s meeting.

The revised budget included $102,148 less in taxes and $232,594 more in funding due to open enrollment and state aid, additional one-time and ongoing expenditures are being paid for out of the district’s fund balance.
The revised budget included an additional $542,493 in expenditures, among them $260,000 to purchase the last pieces of equipment needed to upgrade the Tech Ed department. Additional expenditures include a $23,555 increase to 4-year-old kindergarten; $55,025 increase for open enrollment; and $208,547 increase for salaries and benefits.

The problem the district faces is with the revised budget, district expenditures come in at $20,687,181, while district revenue is only $19,784,111. And according to Edgerton School District Business Manager Mark Worthing, the district is near the top of the state’s revenue cap, which limits its ability to pay for the additional expenses through a tax increase.

That leaves the district with two options: pay for the gap, which with the revised budget jumped from $593,171 to $903,070, out of the district’s fund balance, or make cuts.

This year the district opted to take almost $1 million out of existing fund balance. The district began building up its fund balance three years ago, according to documents provided by Worthing. At the end of the 2009-10 school year, the fund balance had just shy of $1.8 million. By the end of the 2012-13 school year, it had doubled to just shy of $3.6 million.

Edgerton School District Policy 620, which can be found online at, states the district must carry a minimum fund balance of $1,528,332. After the revised budget, the district’s fund balance will be $2,690,066.13. While still above the board-established minimum, the district could run into trouble sooner than later because as it stands, the district does not have a balanced budget.

“We are running pretty lean, and the bad things with schools is 75-80 percent [of the budget] is people,” Worthing said. “The only way to make up real ground on making cuts is people, and that is always tough to do.”

It is even tougher to do considering the school board voted to add staff at the end of the 2012-13 school year. According to Worthing, the additional positions included staff for the district’s Gifted and Talented program, an at-risk position at Edgerton Middle School and two new teachers at the elementary school to keep class sizes low.

In order to make cuts, some schools, such as the Antigo High School, required staff to teach six classes instead of five, which resulted in one less position in the different educational departments. For the Edgerton School District, that is not an option.

According to Worthing, teachers at the middle school teach six out of eight periods. At the high school, staff also teach six periods and supervise a seventh. The final period is used as prep time for their classes.
While the district’s fund balance will make up for the budget gap this year, and possibly during the 2014-15 school year, by the time the 2015-16 school year rolls around, school board members will either have to change the district’s fund balance policy or look at making cuts.

Aside from staffing, the two other big chunks of the district’s budget are maintenance and technology. But with the new technology infrastructure and the integration of iPads into education, cuts to the technology budget will be difficult.

“You cannot skimp on the technology budget because you need it to work,” Worthing said.

As for maintenance, Worthing said the district cannot afford to cut preventative maintenance either, especially considering the work, such as new roofing and parking lots, that was performed during the recent referendum.
One area the district could generate more revenue in is athletics participation fees. The district currently charges students $10 per sport at the middle school, and $20 per sport at the high school. 

Many districts charge much higher fees for student participation in athletics. 

A survey done by the Sun Prairie Area School District in 2012 revealed that Janesville charges a base fee of $75. Some sports pay less, such as baseball and softball ($23) and football ($65), while hockey players pay $600 to participate. Madison area high schools charge a base of $115 per sport, while Verona charges $125 and Middleton, $172.

Closer to home, middle school students in Cambridge charge $50 per sport, and $60 per sport at the high school, according to Cambridge School District Director of Business Services Kathy Davis.

The Milton School District is not far behind neighboring Cambrige. The district charges seventh and eight graders $40 per sport with a family maximum of $120, and $50 per sport with a family maximum of $150 at the high school level, according to Milton School District Director of Business Services Mary Ellen Van Valin.

“Once the family reaches that max, then their kids participate for free,” Van Valin said.

Although Edgerton’s student participation fees are lower compared to other districts, the board is not discussing increasing fees at this time.

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