(Source: Jon Swedien Leader-Telegram, Eau Claire, Wis. (MCT) — The Eau Claire school district would use cash reserves to bridge a nearly $5 million funding gap this school year, as part of the proposed 2012-13 budget released Wednesday.
The proposal would allow the district to avoid serious budget cuts during the current school year, but tapping cash reserves amounts to using one-time money, and tough decisions are on the horizon for the 2013-14 school year, district officials say.
“Dipping into fund balance, we made that decision a while ago to keep status quo through the next year,” said school board member Ken Faanes. “I think we will be looking at a referendum, and if that’s not successful, then we’ll be looking at some pretty significant cuts, similar to what we looked at a number of years ago … Any cuts we have are certainly going to be felt by students and staff.”
Over the next month, the school board is set to review the proposed budget, prepared by Dan Van De Water, the district’s business manager. The board plans to complete the spending plan in early November.
School board president Carol Craig said tapping cash reserves allows officials to finish implementing a new directive for the district that aims to ensure all students are prepared for college or to succeed in a competitive workforce after high school, before contemplating potential cuts.
“We weren’t about to reduce or cut programs without making sure we look at it through that particular lens,” Craig said.
The proposed budget’s plan to tap $4.88 million in cash reserves would draw down the district’s reserve money supply — which officials refer to as working capital — by about 18 percent.
Van De Water said it’s too early to predict what kind of shortfall the district could face in 2013-14, depending on the state budget.
Tax levy down
The recommended budget has some good news for taxpayers.
Because of a $2.95 million bump in state aid allocated to the district this year, the 2012-13 tax levy — the amount of money collected in property taxes — will drop 1.9 percent to $55.99 million.
The owner of a $150,000 home would see the school portion of his or her property tax bill drop $21 dollars compared with last year. Public schools comprise a portion of the property tax bill in Wisconsin. It also includes municipal, county, technical college and state forestry taxes.
Total spending in the district could reach $125.7 million under the proposed budget. Of that, $98.62 million would go to salaries and benefits, which would make up 78.7 percent of expenditures. Wages and benefits traditionally comprise the largest share of the district’s budget.
Swedien can be reached at 715-833-9214, 800-236-7077 or email@example.com.
©2012 the Leader-Telegram (Eau Claire, Wis.)
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