By Rich Palzewic
GREEN BAY – The Green Bay school board discussed the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on future budgets at its Monday, May 18, virtual meeting.
Pete Ross, chief of operations, said the district is entering the second year of the state budget, so revenues are predictable for the 2020-21 school year.
However, budget cuts could be on the horizon.
“We are hoping the state authors a budget repair bill sometime this summer,” he said. “We understand the federal government may also come through with funding so the impact to local schools budgets may be softened.”
Ross said the 2021-22 school year, the first year of the state’s next biennial budget cycle, could be challenging for local districts.
“Everything depends on potential aid and the length of the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said. “But, long term, we will conquer the virus and get back to normalcy. We may have some cuts to our budget in the future, but I don’t think it’ll be a roller coaster that will spill you out of the car – it’s achievable, and we will get through it. But I want to give a realistic picture.”
Ross said he could see this scenario playing similar to the 2011 Wisconsin Act 10 when $580 million was taken from districts statewide.
“Based on a recent report, there could be about a 9.7 percent decrease to income tax collection and a 9.9 percent reduction in sales tax,” he said. “That’s the majority of monies going into revenue for the state so it can provide services. Wisconsin has a yearly $6 billion price tag to run schools, so a 10-percent decrease is $600 million.”
Ross said based on the numbers, GBAPS could see a potential $16 million reduction.
“It seems like a lot, but it would be doable,” he said. “It’s impossible to make a long-range prediction. There are too many factors.”
Several board members suggested Ross put together a document to share with the community on easing fears of potential budget cuts for the 2021-22 school year.
John Magas, associate superintendent of continuous improvement, gave an update on the goals of summer school, which began enrollment the week of May 25.
“We are looking at summer school as a way to catch kids up who might have fallen behind,” he said. “It could also be a soft start to this next school year in the fall. We want to retool. How can we get better with the virtual learning program and make it as engaging as possible? This has been a period of maintaining learning, and we are not sure what the fall will look like. We have moved summer school to early July so teachers can catch their breath and get some professional development.”
Due to COVID-19, Magas said there might be added costs for summer school compared to normal years, but the district won’t know until it gets closer.
“The cost of operating in this budget is more expensive,” he said. “If students are learning virtually during summer school, we may save some money in transportation, but oftentimes, we see those savings eaten by other areas.”
Superintendent Michelle Langenfeld gave an update on graduation.
“Our hearts break for the seniors who won’t have a face-to-face graduation at this time,” she said. “I want to remind people, if the possibility exists in the future, we will hold an in-person graduation celebration. We asked principals to work on picking a future date so families and students could plan for it. Some people didn’t recognize we would commit to that. We are graduating approximately 1,500 students. This particular class will be remembered for their strength and courage.”