Wisconsin School Districts Grapple With Budgets

By KBJR News 1

July 25, 2011 Updated Jul 25, 2011 at 6:56 PM CDT

Wisconsin (Northlands NewsCenter) - As Wisconsin's Governor implements cuts all over the state, Education will lose a chunk of their funding as well. Henry Lamkin, Solon Springs administrator says they will have a hard time.

"I think that we are certainly going to be damaged by it. If we come up a 150 thousand short next year, you can't run your checkbook and household budget like that cause you can't spend more than you make. So we're going to have to make some hard choices and some severe cuts and they're going to be programmatic."

As many districts across the state look at their programs and decide where to cut, Governor Walker provided what he called "Tools" to help the schools. But many Administrators like Henry Lamkin in the Solon Springs School District, say those tools won't help build education in the long run.

"When you look at what we got with the toolbox, it was the ability to take money from somebody else to help offset the deficit. It wasn't a toolbox to help education and improve the quality of that. It was the ability to strip money from somewhere else."

Lamkin says Solon Springs may be short anywhere from 140–180 thousand dollars which may be difficult to rebound from because of their smaller size. Janna Stevens, Superior Administrator says larger Districts like Superior may have more kids and more money, but the effects still hurt them.

"I wouldn't say that it's easier for us because we're bigger. We get more money because we have more kids but therefore we lose more money. So I guess what I'd say is that everyone is trying to do the best thing they can for the kids."

The Superior school district is looking to fill a void that will be nearly 3 million dollars deeper than before. To fix the problem, money has been taken from educators who will now pay 12 percent of their health care premiums along with paying for a portion of the Wisconsin retirement system. Stevens says schools have seen cuts like these before, but never this large.

"This is a larger cut that we have to make this year compared to past years, but every year we have to trim a little bit back."

"One of the problems as people say is throwing money at education won't make it better, and I'll agree with that. But taking money away from education doesn't guarantee it's going to get any better either," said Lamkin.

All in all, both District administrators say the goal is to provide the best education with the funds available. Superior's budget was one of the hardest hit in the state with their 3 million dollar dent.

Examples of good money management include the Ashland school district who switched their health insurance company. As a result, they will be able to hold onto nearly four teacher's salaries. Many other schools have done that in the past, and Superior will most likely try that technique again after their two year contract is over with their current health insurance plan.