By Kevin Boneske
ASHWAUBENON – A preliminary district budget that includes projected general fund revenues and expenditures of around $33.4 million for 2018-19 was approved Wednesday, May 9, by the Ashwaubenon school board.
Business Director Keith Lucius informed the board the preliminary budget for the next school year, which will be presented at the district’s annual meeting/budget hearing in July, still has many variables that will affect the final numbers with the actual student count being the biggest.
“The budget is built starting by projecting student enrollment,” he said. “The different student counts are used to calculate our revenue limit, equalization aid, open enrollment aid, and set staffing levels.”
In addition to wage increases of 2 percent for all district staff being included in the budget for 2018-19, Lucius said a health and dental insurance increase of 5 percent has also been factored in for next year.
“I’m hopeful that we’ll come in less than 5 percent (on a health and dental insurance increase),” he said. “I think 5 percent is a ceiling right now.”
Lucius said a 5 percent increase would be better than what 90 percent of the districts in the state are looking at, but he hopes Ashwaubenon could see no increase to free up around $200,000.
Though the teaching staff level for the next school year would have a full-time equivalent (FTE) decrease of four, Lucius said that will maintain the current class sizes.
“Every time we have teacher FTE changes, people are worried we’re raising class sizes,” he said. “We’re not. We tie teacher FTE to the number of students we keep in those class size ranges. While we’re not seeing a decline in the total number of students, what we’re seeing is a shifting in where they are. We can set our class sizes by grade level…”
Lucius said the preliminary budget also takes into account a projected increase of 28 incoming open enrollment students.
“Twenty-eight’s a conservative number, so hopefully that will improve when we get to the start of the school year and see that number increase,” he said.
Lucius also reported the district’s building cleaning contract cost will be going up $30,000 because of an increase in hiring costs for the cleaning contractor.
“Because unemployment is so low, they’re having a hard time hiring at the wages they’re paying,” he said. “We had a meeting with the owners and talked through their problems, and to be honest, we were having some service issues and we were talking about how we improve this to make sure our buildings are being taken care of. We negotiated this increase in our cleaning contract to allow them to hire – be able to hire people, bring people in and switch people in, that we feel would be more qualified and do a better job.”
Lucius said grant money is being sought for safety upgrades to the district’s facilities, and a decision on how much to spend for building remodeling would be made when the 2018-19 budget is finalized this fall.
To balance next year’s district budget, Lucius said he doesn’t see a need to make additional budget cuts.
General fund, tax levy projections
Though he cautioned the budget is preliminary at this point and subject to change before being finalized in October, Lucius reported to the board that general fund revenue for 2018-19 is estimated to increase by 2.35 percent, from $32.7 million from the current year to around $33.4.
In addition, Lucius said the district’s total tax levy is projected to decrease, but prior to the budget being finalized there are several unknown factors that will affect the levy.
Based on preliminary tax levy calculations Lucius provided to The Press, the total district tax levy is projected to decrease by almost 10 percent from $17,821,961 for the current school year to $16,065,112 for 2018-19.
Lucius pointed out the main reason for the drop in the projected levy is a decrease in the referendum-approved debt service levy from $1.65 million to $300,000.
He said the district has been paying off its referendum debt early and is projecting a $1.35-million decrease for 2018-19.
The bulk of the total tax levy, the general fund, is now projected to decrease by over $400,000 to $15,164,695.