School officials say the Beloit district may have to trim $3-4 million from its 2013-2014 budget if Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed budget passes through legislature.
That could involve eliminating 30-40 positions — primarily teachers — through attrition, according to Superintendent Steve McNeal.
“We will continue to do the best we can for the students of Beloit but this will be the most devastating blow yet that will affect a bunch of good people,” McNeal said.
McNeal will meet with the Board of Education today at 5:35 p.m. to discuss what cuts could be made. The discussion will be in closed session as potential positions to be eliminated will be discussed.
“I’ve got to start making some of those moves in the next couple of months,” he said.
McNeal said he will try to make any cuts through attrition as people leave, by not filling positions.
“We’ve tried not to put people out of a job,” McNeal said.
According to Melissa Badger, spokesperson for the district, certified general state aid for 2012-13 was $57 million. The 2013-2014 state aid won’t be certified until October. The district anticipates aid pressures in the governor’s budget due, in part, to a zero percent increase in per pupil allocations contained in the plan. The reimbursement of 2012-2013 expenses to be paid in the 2013-14 school year is less than the reimbursement of the 2011-2012 school year which was paid out in this current school year.
“The way the state funds education in combination with the massive cuts from a couple years ago has created this cycle of cutting expenses leading to less reimbursement each year,” Badger said.
She said the district can't wait until two months into the year to get confirmation of a need to cut positions.
“It's better to prepare for this now, in case reassignments don't work out, or someone would have chosen to retire, that was eligible, than take a different position. Not to mention, being reassigned at that point is a waste of a summer for a teacher who could have spent that time prepping for the school year,” Badger said.
The district rolled back spending plans by $3.9 million last year, 2011-2012, and $11.5 million in 2010-2011, for a total of $15 million over the past two years. McNeal said only $4 million of those cuts were offset by employees’ contributions to healthcare and retirement benefits, the tools cited by Gov. Walker.
Forty-six positions have been cut over the last two years. McNeal said he expects a large amount of teachers will be retiring this spring due to Walker’s Act 10.
McNeal said the defunding of public education has been devastating to the district, teacher morale and ultimately students.
“We try to do better academically, but it’s pretty difficult. We are dealt different cards than different districts. We are the highest poverty district in the state of Wisconsin,” he said.
Teachers in the School District of Beloit haven’t received a raise in two years and have had their take-home pay eroded by the required contributions to their health insurance and retirement package, he noted.
“Walk a mile in the shoes of some of our teachers or some of our reading specialists. These people are good people. They have their heart in the right spot. We’ve demoralized them. Not only are we not giving raises, but we have taken more out of their pay with the bigger employee insurance and retirement contributions,” McNeal said.
Because of the defunding of education, McNeal said fewer students will pursue a career in education.
He said the starting salary in Beloit for a teacher is $32,000 to $34,000. The average employee lost $8,000 a year in benefits, McNeal said.
He added the price of healthcare and dental services is going up as the cuts keep getting made.