AP NEWS

Preliminary Baraboo school budget predicts $1M expense increase

February 27, 2019

The Baraboo School District’s business manager offered an early look at next year’s budget Monday, projecting an increase of about $1 million while warning that many things likely will change between now and when the school board adopts a final plan in October.

Yvette Updike estimated about $41.8 million in expenditures for the 2019-20 school year, compared with $40.7 million this year, driven by predicted increases to health insurance, utilities and transportation costs and teacher compensation.

“This is very preliminary. There’s a lot of moving parts,” Updike said.

Many factors remain unknown at this point in the budget process. Gov. Tony Evers is expected to unveil his two-year budget proposal Thursday, after which it goes to the state Legislature for changes — or to be scrapped entirely. Once both the state Senate and Assembly agree on a budget, usually by summer, Evers can veto line items from the document.

Updike ran through some of the changes that have been proposed at the state level that would impact school districts. One would add $200 per student for 2019-20 — but whether that is applied as a revenue limit increase or as an increase to categorical aid would greatly impact Baraboo. If it adds to the revenue limit, the district would be able to levy more in taxes; if it’s added as categorical aid, “this is money you’re getting right off the top, so the state is paying you,” she said.

Baraboo stands to gain more if the state opts for the categorical aid increase rather than the revenue limit increase, Updike said, largely because it’s a “low revenue spending district.” She noted some districts would benefit more under the reverse.

Other proposals include increased funding for bilingual students, pre-kindergarten students and low-income students.

Board President Kevin Vodak emphasized that the district’s tax rate will depend on what state legislators pass, a point echoed by board Vice President Doug Mering.

“This is such a moving target with the state budget that all we can do is present to the public the best numbers that we have available at that time,” Mering said. “We can’t base it upon what might possibly happen in the state budget, because that’s never been predictable.”

District enrollment, which also affects state funding, currently remains stable compared to recent years but will fluctuate throughout the year, Updike said.

District Administrator Lori Mueller said board members will have the opportunity to share their budget priorities with elected officials at a board meeting April 8. State Rep. Dave Considine, D-Baraboo, as well as a representative from the office of U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, have committed to attend, and others have been invited.