It took the Elmbrook School Board barely 30 minutes to take a second official look and unanimously approve the 2012-13 budget that proposes a 2.07 percent decrease in spending, a slight decrease in the tax rate and a minimal salary increase for all staff.
The next step is a budget hearing and annual meeting, to be held Sept. 24.
Spending is expected to decrease from $81 million this year to $79.3 million in 2012-13, and preliminary estimates show the tax rate dropping from the current $10.03 per $1,000 of equalized value to $9.97 per $1,000 of equalized valuation.
Since first presenting the budget April 17, Assistant Superintendent for Finance and Operations Keith Brightman noted a change in the original salary projections. Originally providing a 1.1 percent across-the-board increase, the budget now reflects a 0.80 percent increase with $135,000 shifted to fund a stipend for those staff who obtain advanced degrees.
The stipends, begun this year, are a substitute for the previous salary "lane-change" procedure that recognized those who obtained credits and degrees with additional pay.
Two proposed expenditure decreases for next year include $1.26 million from closing Hillside Elementary School, and $650,000 achieved by redesigning the district health plan.
Brightman noted that the relatively smooth budget process this year was due primarily to those cuts. He also noted that the salary increase, while smaller than first expected, is larger than the original projection of 0.045 percent.
It all came down to, he said, the significant decrease in state aid and the ability for the district to manage salaries and benefits - still representing more than 80 percent of the district's operating costs.
"We wanted to increase salaries from the first original projection so that we could approach maintaining a good relationship with our staff and stay competitive," he said.
Future compensation will be influenced by an expectation of a statewide pay-for-performance program set by the Department of Public Instruction, but no timetable has been set for that action.
Also preserved are relatively stable class sizes, ranging from 25 in the lowest grades to 30 in middle and high schools.
Budget assumptions include not spending from reserves as a long-term strategy, exploring grants and private-sector funding to increase non-property tax revenues and spending between $400,000 and $500,000 to upgrade facilities in the current fiscal year.
In his executive summary to the board, Brightman noted that Elmbrook, like all other Wisconsin school districts, has been under imposed "revenue caps" for the past 19 years. District leaders, he said, has successfully changed how the district operated.
Board members said they were satisfied with the budget outcome.
"I think it's safe to say that this has been a good process in an unprecedented year," Board President Tom Gehl said.
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