Dr. John Sample
Governor Walker has recently made proposals in an effort to assist rural school districts across our great state. While there is still considerable speculation regarding these proposals, I feel it my responsibility to take a look at how his proposals could possibly affect Merrill Area Public Schools.
Increase Sparsity Aid by $20 million
This proposal will not aid MAPS since it is intended for districts with a student population between 746 and 1,000 students. MAPS has a current enrollment of 2,722 students.
Increased High Cost Transportation Aid
This proposal may benefit our district. If this proposal passes as written, we could realize a revenue increase of approximately $40,000 offsetting current transportation expenditures.
Increased Broadband Investment
This proposal could provide the District with grant opportunities specifically supporting technology related professional development for staff, improvements to technology infrastructure, in addition to increased access to high-speed internet in rural areas.
Increased Investment for Fabrication Laboratories (FAB Labs)
This may result in potential for our district since my administrative team has been focused on improving the employment skills for our students interested in pursuing technical education and vocation as an area of desired employment. While this opportunity would not result in additional funding it could provide grant opportunities assisting our goal of graduating students prepared to enter our technical colleges or ability to be gainfully employed in area businesses.
Increased Per Pupil Adjustment Aid Amount
Should the Governor’s proposal to increase this aid by $200 per pupil pass the Joint Finance Committee, and in turn the Assembly and Senate, the district could see an approximate revenue increase of $522,650. However, the Governor’s proposal does require this additional aid to be distributed to each school in our district in proportion to its enrollment. It is not clear at this time if this requirement would allow us to fund current staffing and expenditure levels at our schools, thereby avoiding spending reductions in order to balance the budget, or if it will require us to use the funds for additional programs and/or staff. Currently, many conditions exist which are tied to the increase in the Per Pupil Adjustment Aid. It is too early to tell how this may benefit MAPS.
Past practices regarding the state funding formula and our current declining enrollment indicate a budget shortfall of approximately $1.7 million. If the Governor’s budget proposal passes as written, this still leaves a deficit of approximately $1.17 million for the 2018-2019 school year.
Budget deficits are nothing new for our district. Each year we analyze our spending and develop strategies to increase revenue or decrease spending. Examples have included the development of our Bridges Virtual Academy, salary freezes, staff reductions, eliminating programs and a reduction of professional development opportunities to name a few.
In the coming months, discussions and meeting will take place to address our budget deficit. I continue to maintain that our school requires the community and its support to remain viable. Your input and support is more than just greatly appreciated. It is needed as we continue to work hard to create a quality product capable of future success. That product? Those students graduating from our district and setting their sights on making their mark in this world.