Tax Levy and Voucher Costs

Thank you to those who have contacted me with questions regarding
how Governor Walker’s budget will impact the Oostburg School District and
specifically how the expansion of the voucher program could impact us.
 There is a significant amount of misunderstanding and misinformation
around these topics, and my intent with the last blog entry was to focus on
facts which may be important as you consider how our schools will be affected.

My conversations with several of you led me to believe that some
specific examples may be helpful in clarifying how @oostburgschools would be
affected by the proposed state budget.  The graphs below are a starting
place for our discussion. As described in my last blog, our primary revenue
sources are state aid (called equalization
) and our local tax levy.  You can
see that our local tax levy has increased significantly less than
surrounding schools with the exception of Howards Grove where they have seen a
large reduction of 115 students.  The
lower graph shows our state-imposed revenue limits, and you can see that we
have the lowest revenue limits of our local comparable Districts. I included
Nicolet School District in the graph to show the extreme disparity in school
funding as Nicolet spends well over twice as much as @oostburgschools.

The graphs demonstrate that our District has been a
conservative steward of community resources. 
That conservative approach leaves us more susceptible to reductions
in state aid.  Let’s consider the following
  • Should 10 students from OSD receive
    vouchers, our state aid would be reduced by about $50,000 ($5000 per student is
    our approximate state aid).
  • Unless those students were all in the
    same grade level we would not be in a position to reduce costs in any
    significant way.  Losing 1-2 students per
    grade level does not change our staffing levels or other costs.
  • That $50,000 represents approximately 1%
    of our local tax levy.  Since we have
    operated conservatively under the revenue limits, the voucher program would put
    us in a situation to increase the local levy by that 1%.
  • The voucher program then becomes a
    parallel education system drawing financial resources from local communities
    and the state to pay for private education.

The second reality of the state budget reduces state
aid by approximately $150,000 for OSD. 
That is the result of Governor Walker’s proposal to eliminate $150 per
student in categorical aid (another form of state support for schools).  When you consider that we are the lowest
spending District per student in our area, and one of the lowest spending in
the state, it is not difficult to recognize that these reductions will have consequences.  
There are other
reasons for concern related to voucher expansion, but the focus here is on the
financial details as we consider the proposed state budget’s impact on education. I encourage you to contact our local legislators and
share your concerns regarding cuts to public education and how those cuts will
impact our schools and your local taxes. 
I would be happy to talk with community members that have additional
questions around these important decisions.