By David Dyb and Sarah Thiel
On Nov. 8, voters in the Iola-Scandinavia School District will be presented with two referendum questions, one pertaining to capital projects and one pertaining to its operational budget over the next five years.
As detailed in the first part of this two-part series, Question 1 requests $2 million for capital projects, and Question 2 requests $4.6 million over five years to sustain educational programming, student opportunities and operations.
This article examines the second question.
Since 2009-10, state funding to the Iola-Scandinavia School District has fallen by approximately $1 million, more than $500 per student. To address the revenue shortfall, the district has already taken the following actions: Decreased staff by 11.9 percent; reduced one section in grades 4-6; reduced two middle school sections (math and social studies); limited certain staff position to part-time; reduced technology and maintenance expenditures; implemented energy efficient upgrades to lower utility costs; instituted zero-based budgeting for classrooms and academic departments.
Still, at current funding and expense levels, the district projects to experience a deficit of approximately $500,000 in 2016-17, increasing every year until reaching approximately $1.9 million in 2020-21. If the referendum fails to gain approval, the school board and district administrators will be forced to consider reduction or elimination of staffing and programs to account for the budget shortfall.
“Our district has been diligent and responsible managing expenses in the face of the revenue decreases we have experienced since 2010,” said I-S School Board President Kristen Hoyord. “If the referendum does not pass, we will have no option but to make difficult cuts that will negatively impact our ability to provide the top-notch education that makes our community special.”
Cost reduction measures the district could undertake if Question 2 of the referendum does not pass could include: Reduction in staff; elimination or reduction of athletics at the middle school and high school freshman level; increase in membership fees and/or reduction in hours and availability of the I-S Community Fitness & Aquatic Center; reduction in technology device and equipment purchases; reduction in frequency of enrichment field trips.
If both of these questions are approved, school taxes for school district residents are projected to increase an average of $7.30 per month for a home valued at $100,000. This increase will span five years, from 2016-17 through 2020-21.
The debt from the district’s last referendum – held in 1999 – will be paid in full in 2020, and the district intends to structure debt payments to begin when that debt is eliminated, reducing the impact on taxpayers.
For more information. visit http://www.iola.k12.wi.us/district/referendum.cfm, or contact David Dyb, district administrator, email@example.com, 715-445-2411, ext. 215, or Sarah Thiel, business manager, firstname.lastname@example.org, 715-445-2411, ext. 214.