Ashwaubenon board approves preliminary 2021-22 budget
By Kevin Boneske
ASHWAUBENON – Though the amount of state aid the district will receive isn’t known at this point, the school board voted earlier this month to approve a preliminary district budget for 2021-22.
Business Director Keith Lucius said the state hasn’t provided a lot of direction as to the funding the district can expect from the 2021-23 biennial budget being put together in Madison.
“We have the governor’s budget out there, but the Republicans control the (Assembly) and the Senate, and they really haven’t given us a budget proposal yet to go on,” he said.
As a result, Lucius said he put together the district’s preliminary budget by assuming the state wouldn’t be increasing Ashwaubenon’s revenue limit, per-pupil aid and special education aid – three large factors.
“I’m hoping we still see some increases there, but I took a conservative amount there and held us stable, and we adjusted for the number of students,” he said.
Lucius said the total student headcount for 2021-22 includes an increase because of open enrollment applications of new students exceeding the district’s forecast from January.
He said he estimates 60% of new students approved to attend Ashwaubenon under enrollment end up enrolling in the district.
Of Ashwaubenon’s 4K-12 enrollment of around 3,200 students, about a third attend the district under open enrollment, accounting for more than $9 million in annual revenue.
The preliminary 2021-22 budget calls for more than $37.3 million in revenues, an increase of more than $1.4 million from the amount forecast for the current school year, which Lucius said factors in the district receiving federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) grant funds to pay for additional staff.
“We’re adding some staff to do some work to help students catch up who may have lost some ground during shutdown (of in-person instruction) and this pandemic,” he said. “We’ve got some additional funding sources, so we’re adding staff to do that, and that will be on top of the regular classes.”
Lucius said a portion of the ESSER funding will go toward the project to add air conditioning at the high school, and Valley View and Pioneer elementary schools to improve indoor air quality.
He said the biggest expense category involves people, with general fund salaries and benefits accounting for more than $27.4 million out of the approximate $37.3 million expenditure total for 2021-22.
Lucius said the preliminary budget includes a 2.5 % increase in health insurance costs, which he believes is high, based on how those expenses are currently tracking, though there could be a delay in the demand for non-emergency procedures during the pandemic.
“I’ve got the 2% (increase) in for salaries across the board, so we’ve got all those things factored in,” he said.
Lucius said the preliminary budget approved by the board will be presented at the district’s annual meeting and budget hearing in July unless something major changes at the state level.
“With the ESSER funds, it’s helped us a lot, and with a good health insurance year, it’s helped us a lot,” he said. “Those are the two big factors that are driving this.”
Lucius said final approval of the budget and tax levy is slated for the board’s October meeting when it will have finalized figures for enrollment and equalized value.
He said it’s too early at this point to determine what will be the dollar amount of the district’s tax levy, which can be affected by changes in equalized value and state aid, but the goal is to keep the school tax rate constant from the previous year at $7.81 per $1,000 of equalized property value.