While Gov. Tony Evers biennial budget includes increases in state aid to Wisconsin school districts, The Waunakee school district is using conservative estimates as the budget committee continues to plan for the 2023-24 school year.
At the March 13 Waunakee Board of Education meeting, Steve Summers, the district’s operations manager, presented the latest budget planning document, but said he and Allie Dye, director of business services, had advised the budget committee that the governor’s budget proposal includes more funding for school districts than in prior years.
“The governor proposed a significant increase in school funding over the next two years in the state budget process that was shared with the public in February,” Summers said, adding the district’s budget includes modest increases in revenue for planning purposes.
The committee’s recommendation was to move forward with the administrators’ more conservative estimates and continue to monitor the budget process as it develops.
The governor’s budget proposal includes an additional investment in state categorical special education funding from 30% to 60% in the next school year, Summers told the board. When the governor was running for re-election in the fall, he announced a plan to increase special education funding from 30% to 45% the first year of the budget and then to 60% the second year.
The 60% funding would provide about $2.4 million to the Waunakee district, Summers said.
The budget committee’s planning process estimates a $200 per-pupil increase per year.
“Prior to the last state budget, that was a number that was fairly common,” Summers said, “but the governor proposed an initial investment of $350 followed by $650 in the second year of the budget for a total of $1,000.”
He advised the school board members to be aware of the budget dialog as the Legislature continues to work through the biennial budget.
“We’re using what I would view as modest revenue increases in our budget planning process, but the governor is currently advocating for significant investment in public schools, and we will all be monitoring that process toward the spring,” Summers said.
Public schools could potentially see a great deal more resources, but the committee was more comfortable with a more conservative approach, he added.
School board member Mark Hetzel noted that a community member had inquired about the differences in forecasting student enrollment for yearly budgets and referendums.
Summers noted that enrollment projections used for facility planning are not year to year, but time frames.
The facility enrollment projections used for the 2022 referendum were done by the consultant in 2021 and have not been updated, Summers said.
When considering enrollment for budget planning, the most recent student count is used, along with a five-year average looking at the actual state student count then projecting forward.
“What’s included in the budget process is more current information and it’s done on a grade-by-grade basis. The facility planning projections are a little bit older right now and are not based on specific school years,” Summers said.
Randy Guttenberg, school district superintendent, added that facility planning takes into consideration future growth plans for the communities.
District to hire superintendent search firm
The school board voted to have Human Resources Director Brian Grabarski draft a request for proposals for a firm to facilitate the search for a school district superintendent. Guttenberg had announced that he plans to retire in the summer of 2024.
School Board member Ted Frey said hiring a firm to facilitate parts of the process that the school board would be unable to makes sense.
Grabarski will draft the request for proposals for the board to consider at a special April 6 meeting.
Grabarski suggested a timeline wherein the board makes a decision in May and hires the firm to begin in June.
Also at the March 13 meeting, the board:
-agreed to host a listening session with teachers. The members will consult with the Waunakee Teachers Association on a topic that the teachers might want an update on.
-changed a policy regarding the release of student directory information. The new policy allows contact information for elementary students’ parents to be shared with other parents in a student’s class. Parents will then be able to send party invitations to students’ friends. Parents will be able to opt out of the sharing.