The Madison School District would fund early literacy and full-day 4-year-old kindergarten in eight schools, raise average wages 3.23% and hike taxes 3.28%, under Superintendent Carlton Jenkins’ first budget proposal released Friday.
The $501.5 million spending proposal for the 2021-22 school year represents a 1.2% increase over the current year’s budget.
An average home valued at $321,500 could see a property tax increase of up to $115, though that will likely shift depending on how the state budget due by July 1 addresses state aid and property tax limits. The district’s total property tax levy would increase 3.28% to $361.5 million.
“The deliberations are still happening at the state Capitol, fast and furious, and so we have to make a number of assumptions in (the Madison School District) budget until we know more,” said Kelly Ruppel, the district’s chief financial officer. “This is our best thinking and our best estimate.”
The district is still reeling from a significant drop in enrollment due to COVID-19 during the 2020-21 school year and, despite the passage of an operating referendum in November, operating revenue is expected to be up only 0.8%, less than the annual cost of living adjustment.
Any additional funding the district may get through the state budget will be used to cover the funding gap created by the enrollment drop of roughly 1,000 students.
“Had it have not been for the passing of the operating referendum, we would have been in a negative revenue cycle, based on our estimates, but the referendum is allowing us to stay stable as a school district through the effects of COVID-19 enrollment,” Ruppel said. “It’ll take us a couple of years to build this enrollment back up.”
The district is also expecting more federal funds, including $18.9 million meant to combat COVID-19 related learning loss, which has not yet been included in its preliminary budget draft. Those funds should be included in the next budget draft, to be released in June, Ruppel said.
The district said all funds from the referendum that passed in November along with $7 million in repurposed local funding will be earmarked for “Excellence and Equity projects” in the operating budget.
That includes $1.3 million to support full-day 4-year-old kindergarten in eight of the district’s elementary schools with the highest percentage of low-income students.
Other initiatives include:
- $1.36 million to revamp curriculum to be accurate and culturally relevant.
- $840,000 to launch an online learning program to support up to 250 students in secondary education starting in the 2021-22 school year.
- $2.77 million to launch a summer semester for approximately 6,500 students to focus on in-person and online academic acceleration.
- $200,000 for daily world language instruction for grades 7 and 8.
- Decreasing the student-to-staff ratio for student services.
- $640,000 to support middle and high school counselors.
- $307,000 for student mental health support.
- $500,000 for restorative justice in high schools, including hiring four new positions, one in each high school, to run the alternative discipline program.
- Expansion of the Early College STEM Academy, a partnership with Madison Area Technical College that awards college transfer credits to juniors and seniors.
- $30,000 per year for five years for a plan developed with Native American families to acknowledge Ho-Chunk land on which district schools are built.
Professional development for upper elementary, middle and high school teachers also is emphasized in the budget, as well as strategies to support English language learners and additional supports for special education students, said Lisa Kvistad, assistant superintendent of teaching and learning.
Teachers would see an average salary increase of 3.23% when including the 1.23% cost-of-living base wage increase plus automatic raises for length of service and educational attainment. That’s up from a 2.5% increase in the current budget. Employees also received a one-time bonus in January that cost $3.5 million.
The district’s facilities budget includes construction and updates at six different sites over the course of two years, with groundbreaking to occur at the first in June and the last to wrap up, barring any delays, in the fall of 2024.
Construction projects include a new elementary school on the city’s South Side and a new facility for the alternative high school program Capital High. Both should be complete in time for the 2023-24 school year.
“It’s our goal that these projects will finish on budget,” said Chad Wiese, the district’s executive director of building services. “It’s our expectation that we will not spend a nickel over $317 million on all six of these projects.”