New Berlin - The proposed $64.6 million budget for the 2012-13 school year that calls for a 2.65 percent property tax levy increase will go to the New Berlin School District annual meeting next week.
The meeting begins at 7 p.m. Monday at New Berlin West Middle/High School, 18695 W. Cleveland Ave.
Despite the proposed levy increase, the schools would actually spend less this year than they did last year. The reason the levy is slated to go up more than $1.2 million is mainly because state aid will go down about $1 million, said Roger Dickson, chief finance and operations officer.
The state aid reduction contributed toward a $1.5 million deficit school officials had to climb out of to keep the schools going, and to make room for additional priorities.
Finding ways to save
A large chunk of the savings was tied to the $2.4 million gained from using the tools available in Act 10, which eliminated collective bargaining in the setting of teacher salaries and benefits. (That issue is currently in doubt, pending an appeal of a Dane County judge's ruling that the law is unconstitutional.)
Other large savings identified by school officials include $465,000 from partially outsourcing custodial services, $350,000 from closing Glen Park Elementary School, $225,000 from redoing a snow-removal bid, $200,000 from a transportation rate reduction, and $115,000 from refinancing debt.
More modest savings included $90,000 from cutting the overtime budget in buildings and grounds, $86,000 from doing more in-house groundskeeping, $73,000 from routing school buses more efficiently, $54,500 from efficiencies in the technology network among the schools, $52,430 from renegotiating Internet contracts, and $40,000 from relighting with energy-efficient bulbs.
Room for priorities
In addition to offsetting the deficit, the savings also helped make room for a few new things.
The building maintenance budget was more than doubled through the addition of $450,000, creating a more realistic balance for a district the size of New Berlin's, Dickson said.
Expenditures for direct instruction will increase 5.6 percent to reduce class sizes and provide appropriate levels of support for remedial instruction.
Much of the reason expenditures could go into classrooms more is a 5.24 percent decrease in support services. That happened because of retirements and resignations, contracting of custodial services, reductions for pupil transportation and refinancing of debt.
The schools also have math interventionists this year without adding staff, Dickson said.
Ongoing revenue concerns
Other budget elements include a decrease of $94,000 due to fewer students accepted under the state's Open Enrollment program and fewer tuition payments for nonresident students in general attending district schools.
Even with a 2.65 levy hike, Superintendent Joe Garza is warning that future increases in revenues will not keep pace with cost increases.
As a result, the schools will likely look different in the future, he said, noting that officials will continue to look into greater use of technology and delivering more programs through a "distance learning" method.
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