By Kevin Boneske
ASHWAUBENON – After meeting in closed session Wednesday, May 8, the Ashwaubenon school board approved a 2 percent wage increase for all district staff in 2019-20, said Business Director Keith Lucius.
He said the across-the-board increase is projected to cost an additional $400,000 next school year.
When factoring the 2 percent wage hike into the teacher salary schedules, that will bump up the highest available annual salary for a licensed teacher on the top end of the schedule with a master’s degree plus 32 graduate credits by more than $1,500 to nearly $77,700.
For a new teacher not licensed while holding a bachelor’s degree with no graduate credits, the salary on the bottom end of the schedule will be increasing by about $861 to just under $44,000.
The wage increases were considered as part of the preliminary 2019-20 school budget board members also approved to present at the district’s annual meeting July 10.
“What preliminary approval does, it allows us to continue operating the district after July 1, which is our new fiscal year, so we have an idea where we are,” Lucius said. “Also, this is going to set the budget that, with some tweaks, depending what happens at the state level, what I present at the annual meeting July 10.”
The preliminary budget for the next school year includes $33.97 million in general fund revenues and expenditures, an increase of 2.07 percent from the current budget.
The next biennial state budget that will determine the amount of state aid districts receive in the next school year has yet to be finalized in Madison.
However, Lucius said he has spoken with both Republican and Democratic lawmakers, who have “given me the confidence to go forward with this (district) budget.”
Lucius said he expects the state budget will have a revenue limit increase of $200 per full-time resident student.
“By the time we get to the annual meeting, my hope is that we have a little more clarity from the state – I don’t know that we’ll have a settled budget – but I hope we’ll have more clarity that $200 is going to happen,” he said. “I feel relatively certain on that… That’s the biggest variable that could affect us.”
Lucius said another variable that could affect the budget is the student count, for which the full-time equivalent (FTE) is projected to increase for both residents and those attending the district under open enrollment.
Open enrollment for Ashwaubenon in recent years has accounted for around one-third of the district’s overall student population.
With an FTE of 21 more open enrollment students projected for 2019-20, Lucius said that would bring the number of non-resident students attending Ashwaubenon to 1,163.
The board has approved 179 new open enrollment students for 2019-20.
But, Lucius said the district anticipates 50-60 percent of those who apply under open enrollment will actually show up to attend school in Ashwaubenon.
Lucius noted students may apply to multiple districts under open enrollment and then decide which district to attend after being approved, or they could elect to go to school in the district they reside.
He said other factors in the preliminary budget include projecting a 5 percent increase in health and dental insurance costs, as well as anticipating the state budget will increase the reimbursement for special education salaries and benefits from 25 to 30 percent.
Lucius said the preliminary budget also factors in an FTE decrease of 2.38 in teacher staffing that will maintain current class size targets.
It also retains funding for the half-time, four-year-old kindergarten teaching position of Allison Sudol, for whom the board approved a layoff with the possibility she could be called back this summer, depending on student enrollment.