Aug 16

DPI warns of ‘problematic situations’ for schools if state budget is not passed soon

State Superintendent Tony Evers has sent a memo to members of the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee warning of “problematic situations” for schools throughout the state if a state budget is not passed soon. “With the state budget not being settled, there’s a lot of uncertainty across all superintendents and people managing the finances of school districts across the state of Wisconsin,” Brad Saron, superintendent of the Sun Prairie School District, said in a follow-up Wisconsin State Journal article. “And what that means is, really, everything is on hold.”

According to the State Journal article:

Evers said school officials are worried funding increases they have been told for months are coming could be diminished as lawmakers work on an incentive package for Foxconn.

“I think there is a fair amount of concern (from school district officials) that we’re not sure we’re going to get this money,” Evers said. “So until a budget is finalized, I think there will be ongoing concerns.”

The state budget is normally scheduled to be completed by end of June every two years, but debate on transportation issues, education issues, and the proposed massive tax incentives to bring a Foxconn manufacturing plant to southeastern Wisconsin have delayed deliberations this year.

In his memo to legislators, Evers said:

As you know, the Department is required by state law to certify state general school aids for public school districts annually by October 15th, which involves processing a significant amount of data. In addition, school districts rely on the October 15th certified aid amounts and other data provided by the Department to set property tax levies by November 1st. The first quarterly payments to private choice schools and independent charter schools must be calculated and distributed in September. Finally, a delayed budget could impact the distribution of categorical aid that is paid earlier in the school year.

This memo outlines the problematic situations that will ensue if the budget is not signed into law in the near future. The 2017-19 biennial budget must be signed into law by the dates indicated below, in order to complete the specified calculations and payments:

  1. August 31st – to enable the Department to distribute Sparsity Aid payments to school districts on the same timeline as prior years (paid in September), otherwise payments will be delayed.
  2. September 5th – to enable the Department to incorporate the indexing of the per pupil payments for the 2017-18 school year in the statutorily-required September payments to independent charter schools and private schools participating in any of the state’s parental choice programs. Otherwise, changes in funding will be allocated across the other payments.
  3. October 3rd – to enable the Department to run the October 15th General Aid Certification, incorporating the aid deductions to all school districts related to the Independent Charter School Program, the Wisconsin Parental Choice Program, Racine Parental Choice Program, Special Needs Scholarship Program and the aid deduction to Milwaukee Public Schools for the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program. Districts have the authority to essentially levy back for these deductions. Missing this deadline may result in insufficient state aid deductions, which will increase cost to the state general fund.
  4. October 27th – to enable school districts to set levies, incorporating the revenue limit exemption for resident incoming choice pupils and pupils receiving a Special Needs Scholarship, based on an accurate per pupil payment amount for the 2017-18 school year. Failure to meet this deadline may result in districts under-levying the costs for choice and charter programs.

Read more in the Wisconsin State Journal: