Why Are We Going to Referendum?
The State of Wisconsin imposed a revenue limit 20 years ago that does not adequately meet today’s costs and the changing needs of our students. In the 1992-93 school year, our School Board lowered the school tax levy $1 million. The following year, the state imposed a revenue limit (cap) that was based on the previous year’s spending. This resulted in the District losing $1 million in revenue every year thereafter. That, combined with declining state aid and increased operating costs, has placed the District in a position where we need the community’s support to continue to provide the quality of educational services our students and families require.
As state aid declined, the School Board made substantial budget and staffing adjustments. Since 2002, the School Board has cut more than $11.5 million, and more than 150 staffing positions have been eliminated.
The current budget shortfall is in no way related to the construction referendum that passed in 2010. The District continues to gain savings from the significant upgrades to our buildings authorized in the 2010 referendum. Tax revenues generated through a construction referendum cannot be commingled with operating funds.
The School Board recommended a referendum of $4 million per year for three years. The School Board and staff anticipate deficits of almost $3 million in 2013-14, and more than $4 million in 2014-15, and over $5 in 2015-16. This totals more than $12 million over the next three years.
If the referendum does not pass, the approved cuts will reach to, and affect, the very core of our District.
If Enrollment is Decreasing, Why Can't You Cut Expenses?
From 2002-03 to 2012-13, the Board approved cuts of more than $11.5 million. From 2007-08, certified staff decreased by 13%. Support staff decreased by 47%. Administrative staff decreased by 38% (decreased 45% since 2002-03).
While staffing cuts have been made, the Student-to-Staff Ratio continues to increase. In 2007-08, the ratios were:
14:1 Certified Staff (includes Counselors, Psychologists, Teachers, and all licensed personnel)
26:1 Support Staff
In 2012-13, the ratios were:
14:1 Certified Staff
44:1 Support Staff
Projections for 2014-15 are:
22:1 Certified Staff
57:1 Support Staff
Future student ratios will reach the mid 30’s.
While expenditures continue to increase to maintain the quality of education we demand for our students, the amount per student increase the District receives continues to decrease. In 2003, the District received an increase of $230 per student. In 2012, the District received a $50 increase – bringing our current total to $9,202.
Anticipating the state budget allows for $100 per student increase, we project a deficit in excess of $1.5 million. The 2012-13 school year is the last year of $1.5 million per year referendum to exceed the levy for operational purposes. When the referendum expires, the budget will be short an additional $1.5 million (total budget shortfall will be $3 million).
The 2013-14 budget assumptions include:
$100 per student increase (approximately 1%; whereas current Consumer Price Index is more than 3%)
Declining enrollment (a total of 74 fewer students in seven years)
State aid decreases due to high property values
No increase in student fees
No increase in investment income
No increase in library aid
A slight increase in open enrollment revenues
Federal funding remains the same
Overall revenues decrease by 5.76%
Additional budget assumptions include a cost of living increase in salaries, purchased services, utilities and fuel, insurances, and increases in Special Education services. Rising expenses and fluctuating inflation have combined to place the District in a challenging position. Inflation has fluctuated since 2003. In 2011, inflation was 3.16%, with higher increases for food, gas and insurance costs. Increasing costs for food, gas and insurance have contributed to the District’s increased expenditures, with a lack of increased revenues to match.
What Has Been Happening in Neighboring School Districts?
Northland Pines has been successfully going to referendum since 2003-04, with an enrollment of 1,365. Three Lakes has been successfully going to referendum since 2004-05, with an enrollment of 531.
Rhinelander had its first successful referendum for operational purposes since 1998 in 2009-10, with an enrollment of 2,488.
How We Spend the Money
Neighboring school districts (Antigo, Crandon, Lakeland UHS, North Lakeland, Northland Pines and Three Lakes) average $11,091 for the 2012-13 Revenue Limit Per Student. Rhinelander’s Revenue Limit Per Student is $9,202.
Northland Pines and Three Lakes had an average expenditure of $10,576 per student in 2003-04. In the same time period, Rhinelander’s expenditure was $9,209 per student - $1,367 less than neighboring districts.
In 2011-12, Northland Pines and Three Lakes had an average expenditure of $13,834 per student. Rhinelander’s expenditure per student was $9,152.
Because we seek grant funding whenever possible, we have been able to increase our total expenditure per student to $11,762. Even with the grants we have received, we are still $2,072 expenditure per student less than neighboring districts.
Property Taxes and State Aid
In 2000-01, the state shared the burden of revenue with property taxpayers. State aid was 52% of the revenue limit. By 2012-13, the burden shifted and state aid was reduced to 17%.
State aid is expected to continue to decline, reaching 9.51% in 2016-17 and 8.08% in 2017-18. Due to high property values, the state is shifting the support to local taxpayers. State aid will continue to decrease and property taxes will continue to increase.
How Will This Referendum Affect My Taxes?
Property taxes are measured in mill rates. The current mill rate is $9.24 per $1,000 of fair market value of your property.
Included in the $9.24 is $.63 for the current referendum, which expires in June.
If the referendum passes, the current mill rate would increase $1.05 - from $9.24 to $10.29 per $1,000 of fair market value. On a property with a fair market value of $100,000, this is an increase of $8.75 per month.
How Will Future Cuts Impact Our Schools?
Implementing further cuts will require a reduction and/or elimination of core services that the District provides. Click here to view the approved 2013-14 cuts. Here is a summary:
Elimination of the SAGE program – insures small class sizes in Kindergarten through 3rd grades.
Closure of our two Charter schools – Northwoods Community Elementary School (NCES) and Northwoods Community Secondary School (NCSS). These charter schools provide distinctive learning environments for students.
Elimination of more than 35 teaching positions. Reductions will include music, art and physical education, and lead to fewer options for our students.
Reduction of co-curriculars. Co-curriculars are an important part of student development, and provide additional learning activities that enhance student success.
Reduction of Advanced Placement (AP) classes, which provide high school students advanced learning opportunities. Recently our district received national recognition for our AP programs.
Reduction of course electives, including foreign languages. Electives provide students enhanced learning opportunities as well as exposure to future career opportunities.
Increase activity fees; eliminate nine coaching positions and Activities Secretary position.
Larger class sizes. As teachers focus on instructing all children at individual levels, increased class sizes will hinder these efforts.
Student to staff ratios will significantly increase, reducing the individualized education we now provide. Current student to classroom teachers ratios average 25 to 1. If the referendum fails, ratios will increase in the 2013-14 school year to more than 30 to 1.
Who Do I Contact With Questions?
Please contact Marta Kwiatkowski, Director of Business Services, via email or call (715) 365-9700, extension 5734.