The Milaca School District will see over $1 million in cuts to staff and programming this year.
School Board members approved $1,155,786.33 in budget cuts during a March 15 meeting. Another roughly $30,000 in cuts is needed to avoid state intervention in the district’s budgeting process.
Cuts were generally classified into three categories: right-sizing, reductions and reprogramming. Right-sizing is adjusting staffing levels to meet enrollment levels, and should be done every year, according to Superintendent David Wedin. Reductions are cuts from existing programs, and reprogramming means cuts that cause significant changes to existing programs, according to Wedin.
Among the right-sizing cuts are four full-time elementary classroom teachers as well as two half-time teachers in art and music. All together those teachers account for $337,080. Another $100,000 was cut out of the transportation budget.
A total of $535,943.93 was classified as reductions. Three elementary teachers and three high school teachers were cut, for a total reduction of $404,496. The board also approved cutting one section of high school ($8,802.33), a school resource officer ($34,000), and three paraprofessionals who left and weren’t replaced ($33,645.60).
A total of $40,000 was cut from activities, including marching band, chamber choir and reduced travel to non-conference games. The board also cut a wrestling coach, a speech coach and the fall play assistant.
Under reprogramming the board cut $182,762.40. Within that category two school readiness teachers were cut ($134,832), and another two paraprofessionals were cut ($22,430.40). Another $15,500 was cut from the adult basic education budget.
The district is making these cuts, in part, to avoid going into what’s called Statutory Operating Debt, which is when the state takes a more hands-on approach to overseeing district budgeting. To avoid that a school district must keep its operating debt at less than 2.5% of its expenditures in the most recent fiscal amount, according to state statute.
“We don’t want to lose our local control,” Wedin said.
$1.18 million is the target amount of cuts the district needs to make this year to avoid the state stepping in. Wedin expects there are further opportunities for the last approximately $30,000 the district needs to cut, but this is what the district can cut now.
Milaca Schools has faced a declining enrollment and a shrinking unassigned fund balance for several years.
Milaca’s enrollment has shrunk every year since the 2013-2014 school year, when it had 2,073 pupil units. In 2019-2020 the district had about 1,903 pupil units, according to Wedin’s presentation to the board. The district’s fund balance has shrunk over roughly the same period of time. In 2013-14 the unassigned fund balance was just over 16% of operating costs, but that has declined to just 1.87% in the 2019-2020 school year, according to Wedin’s presentation.
Part of what hurts the fund balance is the declining enrollment, which is tied to funding from the state. On top of that is funding for the special education cross subsidy, which in broad terms is the gap between the actual cost of special education funding and the amount the state reimburses school districts, which has also pulled money out of the fund balance, according to Wedin.