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Madison students board bus

Fourth-grade students board a bus at Lincoln Elementary in Madison.

The Madison School District stands to lose millions of dollars in state aid under Gov. Scott Walker's budget proposal, district officials said Wednesday.

The district is projecting an $8.7 million, 15 percent reduction in state aid, Superintendent Jane Belmore said in an interview.

She cautioned that the amount is a preliminary estimate based on the governor's 2013-15 budget proposal, which could undergo changes by the Legislature.

The district is preparing its 2013-14 budget, and it's unclear when a proposal will be finalized. School districts typically develop spending plans for the following year before knowing exactly how much money they'll get in state aid.

Walker's budget calls for a 1 percent increase in state aid, but Belmore said when district staff put the amount through the state's complicated funding formula it resulted in the reduction. State Department of Public Instruction officials couldn't verify the district's estimate.

Based on the state aid reduction and inflationary increases in fuel, health insurance and other fixed costs the district property tax levy could increase by as much as 7.4 percent. The estimate doesn’t include funding for employee raises or expansion of the district’s achievement gap plan.

“This is a starting point,” Belmore said. “Based on everything we know about the very complex state budget, this is the levy increase we could see just to keep current services to students.”

This year's $394 million school budget included $249.3 million in property taxes, a 1.75 percent increase over the previous year.

Belmore said she doesn't know when she will present budget recommendations to the School Board.

Also Wednesday, Belmore and members of the Madison School Board said in a letter to lawmakers that Walker's proposal to expand vouchers to cities like Madison could cost the district an additional $13.5 million over the next three years. Belmore said that is based on 500 Madison students receiving vouchers next year, 1,000 in the second year and 2,000 in the third year.

But DPI spokesman Patrick Gasper, Walker spokesman Cullen Werwie and the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau said Walker's budget caps total statewide participation in the voucher expansion outside Milwaukee and Racine at 500 next year and 1,000 the following year and applies no cap in the third year.

Werwie said there is more interest in cities such as Green Bay, so it would be unlikely for 500 students in Madison to receive vouchers under Walker's proposal.

"You would need to have zero applicants from all of the other districts or they would have to get every lottery slot," Werwie said.

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