District faces $1 million deficit
By Bert Lehman
Superintendent Troy Kuhn shared potential budget cuts and ideas to increase revenue for the Clintonville School District’s 2024-25 budget, which is running a $1 million deficit.
The ideas were presented as information only, as they have not been discussed or approved by the board when it met on Jan. 8.
One potential budget cut would be administrator and director consolidation, as well as the reduction of salary and hourly staff in the district.
Including salary, benefits, and retirement, if the district eliminated an administrator position, the district would save about $120,000 per year, Kuhn told the board.
Eliminating a director would amount to a savings of about $90,000 per year. Eliminating salaried staff would be a savings of $80,000 per year, and hourly staff would amount to a savings of $50,000 per year.
“If we wanted to choose to do that, obviously we would, best practice would be through retirements,” Kuhn said.
He added that if the board decided to do any non-renewal of contracts for administrators or teachers, the non-renewals for administrators would be due by the end of January. Teacher retirement notifications are due Feb. 15. Teacher non-renewals are due April 15.
Switching from a co-teaching to classroom support model for special education was also discussed.
“When I first got to the district one of the ideas of the pupil services director at that time was to do a true co-teaching model in which we have a teacher and a para special ed in every single grade, so that they could specifically co-teach in reading and math,” Kuhn said. “That is probably one of the best ways to do it, but it is extremely expensive.”
Megan Murphy, the district’s director of pupil services, explained co-teaching versus a support model of teaching.
“Co-teaching is if you have two teachers who are actively teaching in the room at all times,” Murphy said.
“Right now, as we’re co-teaching, we have a special education teacher, we have two adults in the room, minimum, at all times when we’re co-teaching,” Murphy said. “That’s very expensive if we were to look at the budgetary side of it.”
She added that it is very difficult to devise a successful co-teaching model.
“For how expensive it is, and how finicky it is, I don’t know if that is worth our money,” Murphy said.
Murphy also told the board that it needs to be aware of “maintenance of effort,” which ensure the district is spending the same amount of money each year on special education.
If the district doesn’t maintain the same amount of money spent, Murphy said the district looks “suspicious” to the state.
Exceptions include retirement and decreases in the number of special education students.
Removing district personnel from special education in the district would not be considered an exception, Murphy said.
“We want to make it understood, if we’re switching philosophies or models, that doesn’t mean we can just go ahead and cut, let’s say a certain group of teachers, because the state or federal government is going to be like, ‘But wait, we’ve been giving you money to do this for so many years,’” Kuhn said.
Murphy said if too much is cut without exceptions, the district’s funding can be eliminated or the district would have to return some of the funding that was provided the previous year.
“It might be cheaper to keep people on staff than to lose the maintenance of effort,” Kuhn added.
Enforcing the two-mile bus transportation rule was another idea brought up as a budget cut.
Kuhn said the district has student pick-up sites within the city of Clintonville. This could be eliminated, but Kuhn said there are safety issues with that.
“We actually are able to allow people who live within two miles of the school district to be considered to be living in a hazardous area so we can still collect money on them,” said Lindsay Norder, business manager for the district.
Norder said it is considered a hazardous area because of highways 22 and 153, which are located near school grounds. The district currently receives funding for picking up students in the city of Clintonville.
The extension of technology replacement for students and staff was also suggested. This would be a savings of $25,000 per year.
Kuhn said a lot of Chromebooks and other technology have “end of life dates” and some companies have been extending those dates for support. This allows the district to use the technology for a longer period of time before it has to replace it.
Kuhn said the administration is not recommending that the district sell the school forest.
Not allowing student fee waivers was also suggested. According to a spreadsheet provided by the district, the amount of fees collected in the district has decreased from $56,000 in 2018-19 to $26,000 in 2022-23.
Professional development could be reduced, Kuhn said. This would include meetings and trainings attended by district personnel, including school board members. This would save approximately $50,000 per year.
A salary freeze for district employees was also suggested. Kuhn told the board that for every 1% increase in salary to district employees, the district’s budget increases by about $80,000.
“Ideally, with the amount of retirement that come out, and then hiring staff at a less cost, you’d think we’d come out ahead in the retirement, but when you consider inflation and not being able to hire teachers at a base wage anymore, it’s really hard in the world of teacher stealing,” Kuhn said. “You’re not saving with retirements, because you’re actually paying people quite a bit of money to fill their positions.”
Reducing the building supply budget was suggested. Kuhn said he has already been working on this with the administrative team, and hopes to reduce the supply budget by $20,000 for each school in the district.
The elimination of the Fox Valley Technical College (FVTC) Maintenance Certificate Program was suggested. Two years ago, that program cost almost $90,000, Kuhn said.
Kuhn said it is great that the district partners with FVTC to offer students different educational programs, but added that when there is a small number of students in those programs, the cost per student is high.
For example, if a program costs $60,000 and only six students are using the program, the district is paying $10,000 per student.
“We have to weigh the cost benefit of doing that,” Kuhn said.
If the Maintenance Certificate Program isn’t offered, the district would still offer the class, but it would not be taught by an instructor from FVTC.
Kuhn said the district could lower the tax for Fund 80 and increase the tax for Fund 10, without changing the mill rate.
“But in order to do that, you have to go to a referendum,” Kuhn said. “So, technically we would increase our revenue in Fund 10, but it would consider an operational referendum and not increase taxes.”
Kuhn told the board that the district is currently working with Grade A Budgets to do a three-year budget projection. After Feb. 15, when the district knows who is retiring the administrative team will meet again.