EDGERTON—Projected flat revenue and state aid over the next two years will make balancing the Edgerton School District budget even more challenging, the district's financial director predicts.
“We can't do it all,” Tad Wehner said. “We can't have every student opportunity and also provide the best teacher compensation in the state of Wisconsin. We just don't have the resources.
“With minimal revenue that doesn't meet even inflation, we're having to say 'no' more than 'yes,' and that's very hard because we always want to do the best for our kids,” he said.
Wehner recently presented a proposed 2015-16 budget with slight increases in the total budget and tax levy. The school board is expected to vote on the final budget Oct. 26.
For the first time in Wehner's four years as financial director, administrative staff will accept a salary freeze, he said.
“All nine of us understood the challenges of this budget, and we're doing what we can to maximize opportunities,” Wehner said.
The district also saved about $30,000 by deciding to not replace a retiring middle school music teacher and instead reorganizing the music program.
Expenditures are expected to surpass anticipated revenue by $23,000, but the district expects to balance that as wages and benefits are finalized. Newer, lower-paid staff will replace retiring veteran employees, which helps save money, Wehner said.
The district still has a goal of increasing regular staff wages by 1.62 percent, the maximum allowed under state law as determined by the consumer price index.
The budget will increase a bit due to inflation in gas and electricity prices. Despite the small bump, the tax rate is projected to fall 1.42 percent. Wehner expects the estimated tax rate to rise a bit as the district finalizes its equalized value, student enrollment numbers and state aid calculation, among other things, he said.
If the tax rate remains lower, the district would pay the difference with “less significant funds.” The district's priority is to avoid cutting programs or laying off teachers, Wehner said.
Per-pupil state aid will remain flat this upcoming school year at $150 per student. Next year, that will increase $100 to $250 per student, creating an extra $185,000 in revenue for the district.
Despite the extra money, Wehner expects the 2016-17 budget to be even more challenging. That's because health insurance costs are expected to rise and immediately absorb that revenue.
This year, the district modified its health insurance without increasing costs, he said. In the future, the district might have to ask employees to help pay for their insurance to offset costs, he said.
“The next two years, unfortunately, are going to be shaped by challenging decisions,” Wehner said. “We'll keep plugging away.”