"High Achievement always takes place in the framework of high expectation." - Charles Kettering

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Madison Could Raise Levy Again Next Year to Fund 4K

Click on the link to see how Madison is planning to close a 12.4 million dollar shortfall in their budget next year. This is about 4 percent of their expected revenue. This makes Evansville's 1.6 million dollar deficit look like a pittance. As a percentage of the whole budget, however, Evansville's 8.7 percent deficit is more than double Madison's.

To summarize strategies to close the gap:

1-Get rid of crappy, over priced insurance plan and secure staff contributions up to 15% of other programs available.-5 million dollars. Check.

2-Cut the jobs they put into place with stimulus funds, which they were told was an unwise use of funds in the first place or fund them with increased property tax (HAH!), renegotiate non-union contracts, implement energy efficient projects. -3.2 million dollars all told. Check.

3-Use the fund balance or increase property tax to fund 4K.  -4.4 million REALLY?!?!?

At first I was pretty stunned by this last bit, but then read the article in depth. Turns out Madison School District, citizens of which complain loudly and often about their property taxes, does NOT levy to the extent allowed by law. The preliminary forecast for next year projects the district to be under-levied by 14.5 million dollars. Despite the fact that the levy increased by 4 million dollars last year. These people have been seriously under-levied lately. Evansville is not so lucky.

Now some historical background with our convoluted school funding formula is necessary to really understand the following twisted logic.  Our magnanimous leaders in Madison have generously agreed to increase the state aide by 50 dollars a kid next year (after cutting it by 550 bucks a kid this year. Thanks Scott! May I have some more?). Another 50 bucks a kid will be available to those districts who levy to the full authority next year. Apparently that legislation is worded such that the total levy must be within 5 percent of the maximum allowed or something similar. Because if Madison increases their total levy so that it is 10.4 million dollars or less below the maximum allowable levy, they will qualify for the additional 50 dollars per kid aid, which is worth $1.4 million in state aid to such a huge district. You have to know that that $1.4 million of additional revenue has consequences down the road, so a decision to tax more to get aid now and in the future is in the best interests of the Madison School District.

I have often thought that the Madison School District has a bonehead in charge of the business office. A few years ago, right after the economy took a dive, Madison forged ahead and wrote their budget based on the status quo increase in state aid seen in previous boon years. They ended up having to cut 15 million dollars that year and being all indignant about it. Little tiny Evansville, with fearless Deb Olsen at the business office helm, wrote a very conservative budget that year TAKING INTO ACCOUNT the general economic malaise and recommended cut in state aid. We actually realized an increase in the budget once it was finalized in October.

Now I read here that Madison hired staff using their stimulus funds. I was on the Evansville board when the district got the stimulus funds. They specifically recommended these funds not be used for recurring expenses. Like Salaries?!?!?! So now Madison has to decide "whether to keep them and find another funding source or cut the positions."  Evansville bought a new wheelchair van. Among other things. They did use some funds to hire a temporary special ed teacher at TRIS. But it was clearly noted as a temporary position. Hmmm. In retrospect, there is probably a lack of good communication among the administrator, the board and the business manager in Madison.


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