The School District of Milton was projecting about a $550,000 budget deficit back before the first of the year based off an assumption of a $100 increase in aid per pupil from the state.
However, the forecast has worsened as Gov. Scott Walker’s budget ultimately proposed a 0 percent increase in aid per pupil, leading to a newly forecasted $892,000 deficit.
Board member Bob Cullen reported the news during his Budget & Planning Committee report to the board at Monday’s Milton School Board meeting.
“We regret to inform everyone that our budget situation that we initially thought we had two or three months ago has worsened,” Cullen said. “… As a result, this deficit for the 2013-2014 school year has required the administration and this board to consider some rather significant cuts for the coming year.”
Ultimately, after a motion by Cullen and second by Tom Westrick, the board voted to make $865,300 worth of cuts for the 2013-2014 school year.
The largest amount of money will be cut from business office estimated reductions (benefits, services, etc.), totaling $505,000. Cutting one high school teacher, a part-time specialist and a reduction in office staff will account for approximately $134,300.
Other cuts will include: two preK/early childhood teachers ($49,600); one district processing administrative aide ($35,000); administrative reduction building and grounds ($31,000); maintenance equipment reduction ($29,800); 10 percent athletic budget reduction ($22,300); district legal fees ($20,000); district office staff reduction ($16,000); credit reimbursement for certified staff ($15,000); and two Northside Intermediate School learning skills program and two supervision assignments ($7,100).
Cullen said some of the staffing reductions would come through attrition, but some would be layoffs as well.
The Budget & Planning Committee also looked at reducing the contingency, which is budgeted for unknown expenditures, such as when a special needs child moves into the district that wasn’t accounted for in the budget.
All of the cuts that were approved were decided on by administration as cuts that would least directly affect student learning and were listed as “green reductions.” The potential yellow, red and orange reductions had more of an impact on the classroom.
The list of yellow reductions included, but were not limited to: two Milton Middle School classroom teachers, two part-time high school specialists and the possibility of closing Consolidated School.
On the red reductions list was: one special education paraprofessional, K-3 lead teacher stipends and a resale of the Milton Middle School iPads.
Finally, on the orange reduction list was: NIS literacy/math coaches, a Milton West match coach and a K-3 reading instructor.
“We had some priorities – what least affected the classroom, particularly math and literacy,” interim district administrator Theresa Rusch said. “We tried to go toward non-academic areas.”
Board president Rob Roy commended the work of the administration to try to lessen the impact on the classroom.
“I would just like to thank the administrative team and Theresa (Rusch) for taking the approach of looking at those things as priorities to cut that have the least impact on student learning,” Roy said. “In the past, not that any cut is every easy, but it’s always easy to cut out of the biggest part of the budget and those are the parts that have the biggest impact on student learning.
“I think you’ve done an excellent job this year of giving us a list that has the least impact on student learning and that’s greatly appreciated.”
Cullen said that the board has been in this position before and that there is still a lot that could happen. Cullen also presented budget reduction estimates from 2005-2012, which totaled $1,906,461.
“It was interesting – a lot of times we look back at the last year and we look ahead at the year coming so sometimes we’re just looking at a two-year window,” Cullen said. “So I think it might be a good opportunity to remind everyone, this board and this district, the administration did compile some information that I found pretty disturbing actually with regards to what has occurred over the last seven years.”
Among the cuts over the past seven years were $846,000 worth of professional staff (classroom teachers, guidance counselors, PRISM, etc.) along with $210,000 worth of administrative staff and $259,800 worth of support staff (positions/contract days/benefits/overtime).
Also mentioned were: a decrease in building budgets ($307,261); decrease in programmatic budgets ($140,000); decrease in maintenance budgets ($35,000); decrease in athletic budgets ($46,000); decrease in professional development budgets ($12,400); and a decrease in substitute budget ($50,000).
“The total is alarming in regards to what we’ve been forced to look at for budget cuts over just the past seven years,” Cullen said. “It’s always a constant battle where we’re expected to do more with less resources.”
Westrick mentioned that community members should contact their elected officials and “tell them what no-increase-per-pupil would do to our district and how it would affect it as far as the learning process.”
“I think the more we can bombard our elected officials with that information on what might happen to our district, the better we are,” Westrick said. “I suggest everyone to contact your neighbors, your paper carriers, your garbage people – if they live in the Milton district – to contact their elected officials.”