La Crosse School District projecting big budget gap

$2.8 million in 2012-2013

Published On: Dec 20 2011 08:40:11 PM CST   Updated On: Dec 20 2011 08:40:40 PM CST

LA CROSSE, Wis. -- The La Crosse School District is projecting a $2.8 million budget gap in the 2012-2013 school year.

"It is a challenge. Although, it's not a challenge that's new to school districts in the state of Wisconsin," said Randy Nelson, the La Crosse Superintendent.

Nelson says work on next year's school budget has started earlier than normal.

That's because of the projected big budget gap, caused in large part by a drop in state aid and expiring stimulus money.

"Whenever you are dealing with shortfalls and you've got to make adjustments....you will typically end up with more kids in a classroom or reduction of programs," said Nelson.

The district is looking at several ways to close the projected budget gap.

One possible option is changing the health insurance plan offered to staff members. Nelson says that could save about $1 million.

Two other decisions will be in the hands off the La Crosse Board of Education.

One decision is whether to give teachers raises.

"We don't want to basically stab them in the back. They deserve to have a raise. Everything else, including expenses, is going up," said Christine Clair, the school board president.

Clair says another tough decision is whether to levy an additional $50 in taxes for each student.

A new provision says the state will match revenue from that one-time tax. For the La Crosse School District, it would mean nearly $700,000.

"It's putting the burden on school boards to raise property taxes and taking the responsibility away from the Legislature....which is supposed to be funding public schools," explained Clair."So, it's a Catch-22."