Viewers who missed school officials criticizing Republican lawmakers at the Capitol on Monday, June 21 needed only to turn their TVs and computers to KSUN during the Sun Prairie School Board meeting to see the same dialogue playing out during a discussion of the 2021-22 Sun Prairie Area School District budget.

School board members and administrators bashed Republican plans to use federal ESSER dollars for anything other than their intended uses on the same day school officials came to the State Capitol to rip the amount of state education aid that the Legislature’s Republican-controlled Joint Finance Committee inserted into the state budget proposal last week.

“It’s important that the legislators hear from our community and from our parents that this is not OK and this is not acceptable,” remarked Janet Rosseter, SPASD Assistant Superintendent of Operations.

“For the Joint Finance Committee to think they can use ESSER dollars to pay teachers, to pay for benefits, to run bus routes, or turn on the lights, I just don’t understand what their thinking is,” remarked While Frei, SPASD Director of Business and Finance.

“Either they’re ignorant of ESSER and what it can be used for or they’re ignorant of what schools need,” Frei said. “Because we need an increase in our per pupil spending that can’t come from ESSER dollars. I think that’s one of the messages we need to get out.”

“We cannot provide well-educated children to become the next leaders of our businesses,” remarked Sun Prairie School Board member Caren Diedrich, “if we don’t have the money to back up what needs to be done. That’s it.”

“Well said,” remarked Sun Prairie School Board President Steve Schroeder.

“I will start out by saying I am beyond disturbed with what’s going on at the State Legislature regarding our budgeting . . . people that pay attention I think are understanding better what this means,” remarked Sun Prairie School Board Governance Officer Tom Weber. “But few people actually pay attention to school funding when we talk about our general public.”

Weber praised School Board Treasurer Dave Hoekstra’s remarks on June 21 at the State Capitol.

“And for crying out loud, if our most conservative school board member in Dave Hoekstra is willing to go down to the state house and go on record talking about this, what does that say . . . about what this issue is?” Weber asked. “This is not a partisan issue. And we’re so quick these days to turn everything into a partisan issue, and enough is enough. We need to stop playing games with our kids’ futures and our own futures as a result.”

Budget projection: $12.33 to $12.75 mill rate

Frei presented preliminary budget figures to the board through both a screen cast and a PDF (see the online version of this story at sunprairiestar.com) that showed the SPASD will lose $3 million in funding for 2021-22 school year if the budget is adopted as it currently stands.

Strategic Budget Items included in the 2021-22 budget, totaling $1.656 million include:

• Professional Ed Compensation Program $500,000

• Planning Principal for Sun Prairie West High School $165,000

• Sun Prairie West High School Staffing $333,000

• Move School-Based Admin Associates to 260 Day Contracts $33,900

• Director of Systemic Equity and Inclusion and Support Staff $225,000

• Install Playgrounds at Middle Schools $400,000.

The Preliminary Budget is based on an increase of 50 students or 0.6%. SPASD administration is using a conservative growth of 50 students; enrollment will be monitored over summer and the budget will be adjusted as needed (the UW-APL Enrollment Projection shows an increase of 233). During the 2020-21 school year, membership decreased by 75 students or 0.9%, and right now is down 44 students, Frei said, mostly due to lower than anticipated 4K student enrollment.

Compensation and benefit commitments

Frei’s presentation outlined compensation and benefit commitments for each classification of SPASD employee:

Professional Educator — The current budget includes all educators receiving a COLA (Cost of Living) increase of $505 or 1.23% of the current base. The estimated salary increase is $737,000. As part of the $5 million exceed the revenue limit referendum, teachers below the Dane County average teacher salary will receive extra compensation. The estimated salary increase is $1,750,000. The total package increase is $2,063,122 or 3.7%.

Support Staff — Will receive a step increase of 1.23% COLA (Cost-of-Living Adjustment) increase. The estimated salary increase is $152,000. Total package increase of $173,666 or 1.5%

Administrative Support (Hourly) — Will receive a step increase of 1.23%. The estimated salary increase is $6,800.

Administrative Support (Salaried) — Will receive a 1.23% increase. The estimated salary increase is $54,914. Total package increase of $74,161 or 1.5%

Administrative — Will receive a 1.23% COLA increase. The estimated salary increase is $61,952. A budget has been established to get administrators who are below the Dane County average to the average over the next three years ($32,111). Total package increase of $183,325 or 2.8%.

Health Insurance — Due to a successful bid in 2018, the HMO health insurance premium will stay the same for 2022. Employees can choose either the HMO or POS plan. Total budget of $13,200,000. Employees will pay the difference above the HMO if they choose the POS plan. But a 0% increase in premiums starting Jan. 1, 2022 will result in an estimated savings of $800,000.

Dental Insurance — Projected to go up 0% on January 1, 2022. Total budget of $1,300,000.

Wisconsin Retirement System — Projected for 0.1% increase ($63,000). Total budget of $4.7 million.

Up and down?

Estimated Increases/Decreases in levy funds, according to the presentation, include the following:

• General Fund Levy: A reduction of $1,456,624 or -2.9%;

• Debt Levy: An increase of $1 million, or 4.9%;

• Community Service Levy: An increase of $200,000 or 32.6%

That translates to a Total Levy decreased of $256,624 or -0.4%, and a school-purpose mill rate ranging from $12.75 to $12.33

Frei said the district will continue to monitor 2020-21 and 2021-22 budgets and adjust as needed.

What’s next?

Early July 2021 — Review Department of Public Instruction equalized aid estimate and adjust the budget accordingly.

July 26 — Public Hearing on Proposed Budget at School Board Meeting.

August 23 — Sun Prairie School Board scheduled to act on a proposed budget.

October 4 — Sun Prairie Area School District Annual Electors Meeting to set tax levy.

By October 31 — Sun Prairie School Board adopts final budget.

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