Less state aid is still more than expected for La Crosse School District

LA CROSSE, Wis. - It was a cut in state aid the La Crosse school District had been planning for since this summer.

The Department of Public Instruction said La Crosse will get a little more than $31 million in state aid.

That's down about 3 percent from last year, but better than district officials expected. However, in the midst of cuts to budgets and funding it can be a struggle to provide the quality education families are looking for.

As a second-grade teacher at Hamilton Elementary in La Crosse, Ed Ludwig said there are always pluses and minuses to the job.

"People don't really go into the teaching for the money, but they often times leave it because of the money and that's tough," said Ludwig.

Ludwig has been teaching for 20 years, but said because of budget cuts and less state aid, it's becoming harder for teachers to do their jobs.

"I would say, it's a fair estimate that an average teacher lost between 5 and 10 percent of their actual wage and benefits package last year," said Ludwig. "That's a lot, when you consider the results of it means you'll be doing more work."

For the 2012-2013 school year, the La Crosse district planned for about $1.1 million dollars in cuts.


The majority of the cuts are being made up by requiring employees to contribute more to their health insurance in addition to cutting funding for field trips and after-school sports activities.

"It's trying to do the best that we can, when we're making reductions with the funding that we have available," said Janet Rosseter, the district's executive director of budget services. "We do our very best, provide the best services that we can for students and it's all a big balancing act."

Funding the budget comes in two main ways -- state aid and property taxes.

This year, the district was expecting roughly $31 million in state aid, which would've meant increasing property taxes to make up the difference.

However, the district actually received closer to $31.2 million. Even though that's still a decrease in state aid from last year, it leaves about $140,000 the district will use to offset any tax rate increases

"That's good news for us because that means that our local property owners will pay less because more of the expenses will be covered at the state level," said Rosseter.

Ludwig said while this budget seems to be working now, he is worried if the cuts continue into the future, it could be difficult to find and keep good, qualified teachers.

"Our district's been pretty wise in how they've put money in certain places to keep programming going along pretty well, but we're at the end of their creative budgeting," said Ludwig.

Planning for next the 2013-2014 school year budget will begin in January.

Rosseter said this next budget may be even harder to plan for since it will be the beginning of a new two-year budget cycle, but said the district will do its best in trying to provide a balance in quality programs and services with possibly more budget cuts and less state aid.

La Crosse wasn't the only district to see a decrease in state aid.

The majority of public schools -- 64 percent are getting less money this year. Part of the reason is because $158 million in aid is being directed toward private school choice programs in Milwaukee and Racine.

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