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Madison School District releases preliminary $543 million budget for 2022-23 school year

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The Madison School District would fund mental health supports for students and early literacy programs, expand full-day 4-year-old kindergarten, reduce student-to-teacher ratios and hike taxes on an average Madison home by 2.2%, under Superintendent Carlton Jenkins’ second budget proposal released Monday.

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The nearly $543 million spending plan for the 2022-23 school year represents a 0.91% increase over the current year’s budget.

An average home, valued at about $348,600, would see a property tax increase of up to $85 — meaning the school portion of the tax bill would be roughly $3,905 in December, compared with $3,820 this past year. The district’s total property tax levy would increase 2.2% to nearly $365 million.

“Budgets are a reflection of our values and our priorities,” Jenkins said. “The 2022-23 preliminary budget book reflects what is at the heart of the (district).”

ESSER and inflation

A big difference in the 2022-23 preliminary budget is the inclusion of $39.8 million in one-time federal money through Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief, or ESSER, funds to address COVID-related learning loss.

The district is receiving $70.6 million over the course of three payments. The district’s first installment, ESSER I, was approximately $9.2 million and had been exhausted by the end of the 2020-21 school year. Currently, $39.8 million of the second two installments, ESSER II and III, are written into the 2022-23 preliminary budget. The remaining $21.6 million has yet to be allocated and must be exhausted by the end of September 2024.

“We have much COVID recovery to address, so the federal funding is welcome, but there is no inflationary increase or per-pupil increase from the state,” board member Chris Gomez-Schmidt said.

As such, the district plans to use one-time ESSER funds for operating costs, while working to ensure those costs will not be recurring expenses in future budgets after ESSER money has been exhausted.

A recent jump in inflation is also putting pressure on the board to factor in pay increases for staff. Currently 4% of the budget goes toward staff wage hikes tied to experience and educational attainment, as well as for a base wage increase, but the district may have to get creative to make those raises happen.

“We have to find ways to make room for any increase,” Gomez-Schmidt said.

The approximately 25,000-student district is still reeling from a drop in enrollment of roughly 1,000 students in the 2020-21 school year and an additional 150 students in the 2021-22 school year.

The 2022-23 budget proposal accounts for a projected enrollment drop of 439 students and a flat revenue limit and categorical aid from the state over the 2021-23 biennium.

“The Wisconsin state Legislature continues to abdicate its responsibility to do the bare minimum for our public schools, forcing districts across the state to make so-called creative but tough decisions,” Jenkins said.

The board plans to vote to approve the preliminary budget at the end of June and implement it on July 1 after two months of community feedback on the current draft. A final version will be passed in the fall after enrollment numbers are finalized.

Gomez-Schmidt encouraged the community to provide feedback on the preliminary budget by emailing the board, offering written or public comment during subsequent meetings, or visiting

Editor's note: This story has been updated to clarify that the estimated total tax on the average-value home of $3,905 is for the school portion of property owners' tax bills.

Elizabeth Beyer's most memorable stories of 2021

This past year marked my first as an education beat reporter — or any kind of beat reporter, really — and it was an absolute doozy. From school reopening's amid the pandemic to school board scuffles over mitigation measures and curriculum, I can't think of a single dull moment.

At times I felt like pulling my hair out while chasing down open records requests and battling with school district communications staff over access to those records but seeing policy change in real time after those stories broke has been affirming, even if the story I wrote played a very minor role in affecting that change. 

Despite the challenging year, this rookie beat reporter is looking forward to many more. 

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Elizabeth Beyer is a digital producer for the Wisconsin State Journal. She joined the team in 2019 and was formerly a data, video and audio reporter at the La Crosse Tribune.

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