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Madison School District property owners could see $150 tax increase due to enrollment drop
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MADISON SCHOOLS | 2021-22 BUDGET

Madison School District property owners could see $150 tax increase due to enrollment drop

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Madison School District property owners could see an estimated $150 increase in taxes in the coming year — higher than the previously estimated $114 — because of steep drops in enrollment and state aid.

The Madison School District is estimating a 9.8% drop in state aid for the 2021-22 school year following the passage of the state biennial budget, which could lead to the increase in property taxes to make up for a $3.7 million budget shortfall.

Top takeaways from the Madison School District 2021-22 preliminary budget

In the district’s 2021-22 budget, adopted in June, officials had estimated the state granting $100 more per pupil in revenue limit, which is the combination of state aid and property taxes. That would have been halfway between what Gov. Tony Evers proposed and the Republican version, which maintained a $0 per pupil increase and ultimately passed. Madison, along with other districts, had also hoped for additional financial support from the state to cover an unprecedented decline in enrollment in the 2020-21 school year.

“Unfortunately neither of these issues moved in our favor in the signed budget, and we now have a state budget with no increase in our primary source of revenue authority for the next two years,” the district’s budget director Ross MacPherson told the district and School Board earlier this week.

District spokesperson Tim LeMonds said there are factors that could change the projected budget shortfall, including enrollment data from school districts across the state. Enrollment is expected to be certified in October, the same month the Madison School Board is expected to vote on the finalized budget.

Long-term problems

The state’s $0 increase in each district’s per-pupil spending limit coupled with the district’s unprecedented 3.7% drop in enrollment during the 2020-21 school year could have a long-term negative effect on Madison’s budget, MacPherson said.

A district’s enrollment affects how much money it receives in state aid. Madison could have lost more state funding for next year because of declining enrollment — about 1,000 students, or 3.7% of its student population last year — but it is benefiting from two stopgap exemptions that limit how much aid a district can lose each year.

The district anticipated the first stopgap exemption being only a one-year fix in the 2021-22 budget and going away next year, as well as an anticipated continued decline in enrollment but, “what we didn’t expect was $0 per pupil surviving in the state budget,” MacPherson said in his report.

The $0 per pupil funding increase triggered a second exemption for the 2021-22 school year, but it is also only a one-year fix and could increase a potential funding shortfall ahead of next year’s budget process.

“Typically, districts in those circumstances either raise taxes to cover losses, cut program expenditures, or use fund balance to maintain,” Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction spokesperson Chris Bucher said.

Other school district aid

Gov. Tony Evers allocated a one-time $100 million sum in the state biennium for K-12 education expenses, for districts to use as they please. Of that $100 million pot, districts can expect to see between $120 and $130 per pupil from the one time allocation.

“These funds can help reduce those costs in any way they see fit,” Bucher said.

But according to DPI, it’s safe to assume each district incurred costs of up to $500 per pupil so far, during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Wisconsin is also anticipating roughly $2.3 billion in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief, or ESSER funds, which Legislative Republicans leveraged in favor of the Joint Finance Committee budget that was ultimately passed.

The Madison School District is set to receive $70.6 million over the course of three ESSER payment installments. The district’s first installment, ESSER I, was approximately $9.2 million and had already been exhausted by the end of the 2020-21 school year. District planning for the use of funds from ESSER II and III had been put on hold as finance officials awaited the outcome of the state budget battle.

According to federal guidelines, ESSER funds must be exhausted by September 2024, and district officials fear the one-time funds could lead to a steeper funding cliff if they were used for ongoing expenses such as salary increases or operating costs.

“There are no assurances that future state budgets will make up the difference between what we spend now using one-time funds and what will be needed to sustain those operational costs once the grants expire. Essentially, we would be sustaining a base level of costs on borrowed time,” LeMonds told the State Journal in June.


School Spotlight: Adventures in learning, inside and outside the classroom

Each Monday, the Wisconsin State Journal features a story about learning in Wisconsin. You can find all the School Spotlight stories from 2021 here. 

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The trees and the vista just beyond the school forest could be preserved under current plans for the North Side subdivision

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A field trip to a Wisconsin Dells water park was cut short when a thunderstorm rolled in, giving campers another water-themed lesson.

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The camp at Madison Community Montessori School in Middleton was designed to pique students' interests and explore language, math and science. 

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Glitter became dragon scales, and dish soap was worm guts.

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Harbor launched 12 weeks of summer camps that take advantage of the athletic club and also bring in educational elements, with themes such as summer Olympics, recycling and carnival.

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Madison School & Community Recreation, Madison Parks and the Madison Reading Project are bringing free, accessible recreation to the city's neighborhoods through the Mobile Madison program.

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Greathead showed up at an end-of-the-year party wearing a skirt decorated with rainbows her students drew with fabric markers.

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Signs on the Eagle School trail identify species through the characteristics of leaves, fruit and bark, explain why leaves change color in the fall, and discuss oak savanna restoration.

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The school began in a church basement in 2005.

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Children learn a new language while engaging in hands-on activities such as arts and crafts, storytelling, music and movement and dance. 

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Marilyn Ruffin founded the Sun Prairie BEAM Awards to shine a light on the positive examples of Black excellence and achievement in the community.

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A $13,000 grant from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation will help expose middle-schoolers to careers in manufacturing and technology.

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The school celebrates the passage of seasons through art, music and story to strengthen a connection to the rhythms of nature.

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“It’s really nice we get to go outside and do nice things for people,” said freshman James Bradley.

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Keena Schroeder's cheesecakes have raise $1,000 for the Sun Prairie School District’s Hunger Hero Campaign to pay down outstanding balances for students' lunches.

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“I have very few (curriculum areas) that teach reading, writing and critical thought better than hip-hop,” said social studies teacher Andy Hartman. “It lends itself to kids who typically don’t engage in schools.”

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Once Monona Terrace was secured for rehearsal space, the “Percussion Extravaganza” concert was recorded, and it will be available online at 4 p.m. Saturday.

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Drotzer's Polish bantam chicken earned her a grand champion award at the Jefferson County Fair, where her drake was a reserve champion.

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The program combines academic and technical classroom instruction with mentored on-the-job learning.

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Social workers in the Middleton-Cross Plains School District sprang into action to get essentials like toilet paper to families in need.

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Edgewood Campus School teacher Kim VanBrocklin has been using brain-based learning initiatives in her teaching for nearly two decades. 

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“Daphne is a force to be reckoned with,” said Leah Williams, science teacher and adviser for the school's Green Team at Middleton High School.

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Students were asked to grab a makeshift drum and play along or dance or do both as they watched an online video performance at home.

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The temperature was hovering around 2 degrees and frost was in her hair, yet Sena Pollock didn’t seem fazed about the prospect of spending six…

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Olbrich's Rainforest Rhythms celebrates cultures from tropical and sub-tropical rainforest regions through dance and music.

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The program serves disconnected, low-income young people ages 16 to 24 in Dane County and guides them toward self-sufficiency through mentoring, education and employment training.

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A $1,115 grant from Friends of MSCR grant was used to buy winter clothing, such as snow pants and gloves, and play equipment, including sleds and tools to build igloos.

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Sophia De Oliveira and brother Nickolas De Oliveira created Project Empower's Lung Model Kit to help children understand the COVID-19 pandemic.

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When the Middleton High School hockey season was canceled because of COVID-19, team members built two rinks at Penni Klein Park.  

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In Kathy Nieber-Lathrop's “Gingko Finds Her Forever Home,” a girl who is adopted sets off on an adventure to find her Chinese tree an earthen home.

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