State budget cuts hit Superior schools

The Superior School District must cut another $600,000 from its budget for the 2009-10 school year after learning of Wisconsin's latest budget proposal May 29.

The Superior School District must cut another $600,000 from its budget for the 2009-10 school year after learning of Wisconsin's latest budget proposal May 29.

"If the legislature keeps meeting, we won't have any money," board member John Hendricks joked at Monday's school board meeting.

"Up until Friday (May 29) we were OK," said Jack Amadio, business manager for the district. "Then after Friday, that put us behind the eight ball again."

The Joint Finance Committee approved a proposal last month that called for a 3.1 percent reduction in general school aid. Schools will see not only a decrease in equalization aid but the lowering of the revenue cap.

Under the original budget proposal, Superior school district officials had anticipated increasing its spending per pupil by $320 dollars. With the new revenue cap restrictions, the allowable increase of per pupil spending is expected to be about $200 dollars.


Janna Stevens, assistant superintendent for the Superior school district, said the cuts to school funding should not impact taxpayers because the lowered the revenue cap offsets the reduction in state equalization aid. If the revenue cap had not been lowered, Superior residents could have seen property tax increases of 10 percent or more, but under the current proposal, property taxes will likely increase by the same rate as past years. The district must absorb the $600,000 in cuts itself.

"We're trying to protect the classrooms," Stevens said. "We want to do what's best for the students."

Stevens will take over as superintendent of the district in July after current superintendent Jay Mitchell retires. Her assistant superintendent position will not be filled, which Stevens says is one way the district will make up the $600,000 it needs to cut.

To further deal with the budget shortfall, the district will not purchase new buses this year and will not replace or add computers at any schools. Stevens said about $300,000 will be saved on buses and $275,000 on computers.

No staff members will be laid off in the district because of the cuts, but program expansions will have to be put on hold.

"I'm sure the people might have great ideas out there for programs we might add, but at this point, we can't consider any new programs," Stevens said.

Despite the reduction in state aid, the Superior district will still receive about federal stimulus grant money to fund programs such as IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act). The grant money is guaranteed for two years and will be used primarily for staff and curriculum development. A math coach will be hired to help elementary school teachers utilize the new math resource to be adopted next year and learn more effective teaching methods to tailor instruction to individual students.

At the middle school and high school, two literacy coaches will be employed to perform similar jobs.


"It's about building teacher's skills so they'll have them when the money isn't there," Stevens said.

For this year, Amadio believes the district's expenditures should equal its revenue. Overall, he said the district is still in good shape."We're in better position than 95, maybe 99 percent, of school districts in Wisconsin right now," Amadio said.

He said because the Superior district has been able to keep money in its fund balance, it has been able to avoid the short-term borrowing that is now causing problems for many districts. If cuts to school funding continue, however, both Amadio and Stevens worry the Superior may eventually find itself in a similar situation.

Stevens encouraged those troubled by the school funding cuts to contact Sen. Bob Jauch ( ) and Rep. Nick Milroy ( ) with their concerns.

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