No Teacher Layoffs Needed to Balance School Budgets

Reported by Kristen Elicerio | bio | email | twitter

LA CROSSE, Wis. - Despite local school districts having less money to spend, they're able to balance next year's budget without teacher layoffs.

Governor Walker's budget significantly decreases revenue limits, which is the amount of taxes and state aid Wisconsin schools can receive. This leaves million dollar gaps in their budgets.

For example, La Crosse schools typically see a $2 million increase in revenue each year. Next year they'll see a $4.9 million decrease.

Districts say concessions from teachers and other district employees who are willing to pay more for their benefits make up for these gaps for the 2011-2012 school year.

But, in the years to come it's a different story because revenue will stay the same, with no new tools to make up for any increased costs.

"We're having to cut all this money to get to that revenue figure and then the following year no new revenue. Well, to have no new revenue will be a challenge and I'm not so sure how we're going to do that," said Larry Dalton, Director of Finances for Onalaska Schools.

"In La Crosse we have traditionally invested more per pupil than the state average. Our reduction going into 2012-13 is bigger," said Janet Rosseter, Executive Director of Business Services for La Crosse Schools.

In addition to teacher concessions, the La Crosse School District says they'll also cut $614 per student. Onalaska will cut $521 per student.

Gov. Walker remains optimistic, saying the 5.8 percent contribution public employees are having to make is flexible and go higher if districts need more money, "School districts are not locked into them. If a school district wants more or less then where they're at they have the ability to go up. In fact, it's important to remember that the average amount for middle class tax payers is 20 percent," said Gov. Walker.

La Crosse school district says even after teacher contributions and cuts they still face about a $1 million budget shortfall. To fill that gap for next year they'll use left over stimulus money.

In Onalaska the two balance each other out.

Schools say in addition to revenue limits staying the same for the next two years, Gov. Walker's current budget includes yet another cut to state aid in the 2012-2013 school year.

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