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Governor's budget could cost St. Croix Central district $230,000

As Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed 2015-17 budget heads to the legislative budget committee, the St. Croix Central School District is left contemplating how it might make up for $230,000 it could lose in direct state aid should the budget pass as proposed. Walker’s proposal would cut state aid by $150 per student during the 2015-16 school year. The proposal is built on the back of a property tax cut estimated to save a typical homeowner $5 in each of the budget years.

According to District Business Manager Jennifer Kleschold the loss could be even greater.

“This school year we had an additional $75 in per pupil categorical aid and an additional $75 in our revenue limit, so a total of $150 per student. So for next year if Walker’s proposal goes through we would lose $150 per pupil in categorical aid plus we would not get the $150 that we got this year, so it’s really a difference of $300 per student or about $460,000,” explained Kleschold.

That would mean having to make up $460,000 in lost revenue next year.

“It’s quite a shock to the system,” said Board President Howard Kruschke.

Kleschold suggested several ways to make up for the potential lost revenue without affecting education. They included delaying the purchase of a new bus, or possibly leasing a new bus and seeing if, with all the energy efficiency measures completed and new construction, some of the $150,000 budgeted for maintenance might become available.

“Plan for the worst and hope for the best,” said Board Clerk Jeff Redmon.

“We had talked about with Tony Evers (State Superintendent) maybe a zero increase per student would be good, but we never anticipated taking away $150 per student. That was kind of a punch to the gut, but we’ll know more in a couple months,” said District Superintendent Tim Widiker. “This obviously affects all school districts in the state. We plan to participate in a regional meeting to talk about what this means to each of our school districts.”

Tom Kortas of CliftonLarsonAllen LLP provided the board with the district audit report. The total cost of services including instruction, administration, maintenance, transportation, food service and fiscal fees and interest increased by 9.9 percent, from $17,051,492 in 2013 to $18,743,833 in 2014. That total cost was reduced by $1,184,247 paid in by program participants and another $1,326,058 in federal and state government subsidies. The remaining net cost for all governmental activities was $16,233,528. Just over 26 percent of that net cost was paid for with property taxes totaling $4,986.205 and $11,045,495 (58.1 percent) was paid for in general aid. Just over 26 percent was considerably less than the state average for property tax revenue which was 44.26 percent. The district also received considerably more 58.1 percent in state aid than the state average of 35.07 percent.

“Condition of the records was excellent. Jen does an excellent job, very few adjustments,” said Kortas.

The board designated Megan Edelman as 2015 recipient of the Wisconsin Higher Education Academic Excellence Scholarship and Nicole Varela as the recipient of the 2015 Wisconsin Technical Education Excellence Scholarship. Edelman also earned Valedictorian honors and plans to attend the University of Wisconsin at La Crosse next fall. Varela will attend Chippewa Valley Technical College. Sadie Buckel earned Salutatorian honors.

Other business

— Katy Bazzett of Chartwells reported that food service breakfasts were up by 25 meals per day and a la carte sales were also up by $55 per day compared to the same period last year while lunch sales have remained steady at 1,000 meals a day. She attributed some of the improvement to the Power Hour program at the high school.

— The board approved giving the Grant Project Oversight Committee (POC) authority to approve construction bids with the stipulation that only members who are also school board members may vote. Other members may only act in an advisory capacity. Board members Howard Kruschke, Scott DeGross, David Olsen and Kirk Lyksett are members of the POC.

— Kruschke presented Director Kay Zwald with a Certificate of Achievement on behalf of the Wisconsin Association of School Boards.

— The remodel of the bank building has hit a snag regarding whether or not the common wall shared with the Dalton Realty office meets firewall code requirements. A remedy could cost as much as $30,000 according to Clerk Redmon.

The next regularly scheduled school board meeting will take place Monday, March 16, at 7 p.m. at the middle school library.