Spending cuts don't slice New Berlin School District's levy
Preliminary budget foresees 2.65% hike
New Berlin - The district's preliminary budget for 2012-13 would increase the school property tax levy 2.65 percent with no staff or program cuts.
The New Berlin School Board last week approved the preliminary spending plan of $65.6 million, which will be presented at the district's annual meeting Oct. 24.
As proposed, spending would actually go down 0.44 percent, or $282,786, from the final 2011-12 budget, said Roger Dickson, chief finance and operations officer. In fact, the schools plan to spend less next year than they spent two years ago in the 2009-2010 school year.
Despite the spending curb, the proposed levy would go up more than $1.2 million, mainly because state aid will go down about $1 million, Dickson said.
Another reason is that the district and teachers had not settled on pay for last year until now. Next year's budget will include a 1.64 percent increase for 2011-12 plus more money for raises in 2012-13, he said.
There was a little room left over to put $450,000 more into building maintenance - more than doubling that budget item. The $400,000 the district had been budgeting each year "was significantly low for a district this size," he said.
Indeed, School Board member Tom David approved of beefing up the maintenance budget, saying: "I know we do have maintenance concerns."
The schools also will be able to have math mentors next year in addition to the reading mentors that have been on staff for some time. That was done without adding staff, Dickson said.
Debt and deficits
The district began its budget development for 2012-13 with a $1.5 million structural deficit to knock down, Dickson said.
To deal with that deficit for next year, savings came from several areas, Dickson said.
They included saving $465,000 by partially outsourcing custodial services; $350,000 by closing Glen Park Elementary School; $2.4 million by using the tools available in Act 10; $225,000 from redoing the snow-removal bid; $86,000 by doing more in-house groundskeeping; $40,000 by relighting with energy-efficient bulbs; $90,000 from cutting the overtime budget in buildings and grounds; $54,500 from the technology network between the schools; $52,430 from renegotiating Internet contracts; $200,000 from a transportation rate reduction; $73,000 from routing school buses more efficiently; and $115,000 from refinancing debt.
Building Ronald Reagan Elementary School and making significant improvements to New Berlin West Middle/High School several years ago caused New Berlin to have more debt on a percentage basis than any school district in Wisconsin - and more debt in terms of dollars than any district except the biggest ones, Dickson said.
The need to do those things was there, but there is still a price being paid in terms of property taxes needed each year to pay off that debt, he said. That is only one of the budget challenges the district faces each year.
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