For the upcoming year, schools in the La Crosse district will once again have to do more with less.
District officials said balancing this year's budget has been one of the toughest, if not the toughest, to date.
The preliminary numbers show a smaller operating budget, but with a drop in state aid, taxpayers may have to pick up a bigger tab.
It's a challenge that comes with the start of every school year for the La Crosse School District.
“It's just another year of trying to tighten the belt, and provide good programs and services on a very limited budget,” said Janet Rosseter, executive director of business services for the La Crosse School District.
The district's operating budget this year is projected to be $90 million. That's a $623,000 drop from last year.
The district's superintendent, Randy Nelson said it's an effort to save money while still providing a good education.
“It's become more challenging along the way,” said Nelson.
Nelson said the district has also carefully cut positions through attrition and changed its health care plan for employees to save money, but even with the district's cost-saving efforts, it’s also projected to receive about $2.5 million less in state aid.
Rosseter said less help from the state has been a troubling trend for years.
“So it's just been a slow and steady shift from the state to the local property tax,” said Rosseter.
In order to help make up the difference, the preliminary budget projects property taxes to increase by about $83 on a $100,000 home. About $20 of that is for funding the construction of the new Northside Elementary School.
Nelson said balancing future budgets may only get harder from here with the expansion of private-school vouchers in the state.
"Those dollars that are being provided in the private sector really could have helped us balance the budget better this year, but instead some of those impacts are going to be likely coming to our taxpayers,” said Nelson.
While this year will be another where educators have to do more with less, Nelson said a student's education is always priority.
“Many of the things that we're doing are more about culture shifts that we just have to do and we just have to embrace to move forward, and to be able to provide better learning experiences for our children,” said Nelson.
The La Crosse School District is also projecting an increase in enrollment of about 26 students.
While more students brings more money, it won't be enough to make up for the loss in state aid.
The school district won't be able to finalize the budget until late October, when the numbers for enrollment, state aid and property tax value are available.