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Elmbrook urged to close school, bring back 4K

Moves would save district millions

July 14, 2010

Closing an elementary school, reinstituting 4-year-old kindergarten and increasing class sizes are among the recommendations being made by a School Board subcommittee in an effort to help close the Elmbrook School District's projected $16 million budget gap over the next five years.

The panel - made up of parents, board President Tom Gehl and other residents - this week presented its final report and recommendations to the board after six months of deliberations.

Two options on the table

The recommendations boil down to two courses of action.

In one scenario, the district would close one of its smaller elementary schools, reinstitute 4K, increase average class size by one student, increase the amount of Open Enrollment seats in the district and transition Chapter 220 students to Open Enrollment students.

The second scenario is similar to the first, but it doesn't call for closing an elementary school.

The first option is projected to account for about $16 million in savings and revenues through the 2014-15 school year, while the second option would save about $14.3 million.

Under both plans, the changes would be phased in, starting in 2011-12.

The team also broke down the financial impact of proposed changes individually. For instance, reinstituting 4K would bring about $1,700 per student to the district, while closing one of the district's smaller elementary schools would save about $1 million annually.

Not a permanent solution

But the panel's report also says those actions - either individually or a combination thereof - are only temporary measures and "cannot solve the budget gap for more than a limited period of a few years."

The best way to do that, the report says, is to match the rate of increase in wages and benefits for represented and nonrepresented staff with the rate of increase in school district revenues.

The average increase in benefits and wages in the district is about 4.1 percent, while revenues can only grow by about 2 percent a year.

Keeping those two figures in line would "address well over half the projected budget gaps on an annual basis, without eliminating one teaching position, increasing one class size, closing one school, adding one tax-supported program or eliminating one co-curricular offering or program," according to the report.

Officials to review report

Superintendent Matt Gibson said the study team's charge was to find ways to bridge the projected budget gap in the next five years while also maintaining the district's high-quality educational services and programs.

The board will spend the next several months discussing and potentially taking action on the recommendations, but Gehl reminded board members that the proposals "are not any kind of permanent fix for funding issues" in the district.

NEXT STEP

WHAT: Elmbrook School Board work session and discussion of Enrollment Management Study Team recommendations

WHEN: 7 p.m. Tuesday

WHERE: Central Administration Office, 13780 Hope St.

INFORMATION: The School Board will continue discussion of the study team's recommendations at its next meeting, 6 p.m. Aug. 24.

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