Projected $1 million deficit has district officials exploring personnel options
Faced with a projected budget deficit of $1 million for the 2015-16 year, Grafton School District officials have begun considering a variety of cost-cutting measures, including staff reductions.
“We need to look for efficiencies wherever we can,” Supt. Mel Lightner told the School Board on Monday night. “It’s a big challenge.”
Increased operational costs and anticipated cuts in state aid are expected to put Grafton and other school districts in financial pinches as they prepare their 2015-16 budgets.
Lightner said Grafton’s deficit could be pared if the state decides to restore a categorical aid of $150 per pupil that was cut in Gov. Walker’s proposed budget.
“But we’re playing a kind of shell game because we don’t know” about the impact of the state budget, Lightner added.
Despite the projected deficit, Lightner recommended few changes in teaching staff for the coming school year. He said that, based on anticipated enrollment numbers, the district should add one full-time seventh-grade teacher and a half-time teacher for 4-year-old kindergarten, eliminate one full-time elementary teacher and cut the special-education teaching staff at Kennedy Elementary School from 1.8 full-time-equivalent positions to one full-time job.
The seventh-grade position is needed, Lightner said, to provide seven teachers for core subjects at John Long Middle School and reduce the current class size average of 29.5 students.
The 4-K teacher should be added, Lightner said, to maintain projected 4-K enrollments of 38 at Grafton Elementary School, 32 at Woodview Elementary School and 34 at Kennedy.
However, one less elementary teacher is needed because of a projected decrease of 30 total students in 5-year-old kindergarten through fifth grade, Lightner said.
Lightner asked the board to make a decision on potential layoffs at its April 27 meeting.
“But that doesn’t get us anywhere on reducing the deficit,” Lightner said.
Instead, Lightner urged the board to consider other personnel-related costs for possible savings. Among the options, he said, are reducing the number of administrators, secretarial and co-curricular positions and part-time custodial staff; paring holiday and lunch-duty pay and use of sick days when not required for the Family Medical Leave Act; and providing cash payments in lieu of insurance.
Lightner said he and Director of Business Services Kristin Sobocinski will continue to explore expenditure areas before making specific recommendations to the board by late May or early June.
Sobocinski said the district can expect a slight reduction in enrollment this fall, with the current student total of 2,182 decreasing to 2,146.
Even so, Lightner said, Grafton has favorable open-enrollment numbers, attracting more than 200 students from other districts. Each open-enrolled student is expected to bring in $6,635 to the district, with total net revenue projected at $816,105.
“We should continue to look at ways to bring more students in,” Lightner said. “When we look at facilities and the budget, we want to keeping attracting more.”
Beyond the 2015-16 school year, the district’s financial crunch could be eased by a referendum, an option officials are exploring for the April 2016 election. Upgrading school buildings and grounds, technology and sports facilities are among the top priorities being considered, but Lightner suggested a referendum could have another focus.
“We could consider an operational referendum as well as a facilities referendum,” he said.
Area school districts in which referenda passed on April 7 included Port Washington-Saukville and Mequon-Thiensville, where voters approved spending plans of $49.4 million and $18.2 million, respectively.