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Practically Speaking

Kyle and her husband moved to Brookfield in 1986. She became active in local politics and started blogging in 2004. Her focus is primarily on local issues but often includes state and national topics, too. Kyle looks at things from the taxpayers' perspective in a creative, yet down to earth way, addressing them from a practical point of view.

4K solving budget woes=Lucy Ricardo math

4-K, Elmbrook, TAXES

I know I pick on Lucy Ricardo of I Love Lucy fame from time to time, but no other character so easily embodies ridiculous thinking when it comes to money. Lucy Ricard math is: the reasoning process by which Lucy justifies a faulty fiscal policy in order to finagle what she wants out of Rickey.

Currently, some Elmbrook administrators and board members are engaging in what I call, Lucy Ricardo math by thinking that by boosting enrollment, we can ease our budget woes.

Tomorrow the board votes on keeping or discontinuing 4K. The board and administration admit there is not much real academic gain to a 4K program but tout it as a way to boost revenue.

In a recent article, Gibson said, "...finances are the key reason [for 4K]" and "...the main motivation for adding 4-K was financial..." and "If the board does not approve 4-K, members will need to find other ways to 'shore up' enrollment and revenues to avoid major budget cuts, he said."

Bob Borch, in the Elmbrook Link last January, urged increasing all possible enrollments for the same reason. We can see this desire to recruit every possible student in the district's reluctance to limit enrollment to resident students.  

Board President Meg Wartman, however, seems to "get it"; that adding more students to the Elmbrook School District is not the way to ease budget problems. (Meg does not buy into the Lucy Ricardo Math scenario.) She appears to understand that every student added means added expense for Elmbrook taxpayers and added burden on facilities, faculty, and services. 

In a recent article, Board President Wartman commented that raising the revenue cap instead of starting a 4K program to generate income for Elmbrook was a better solution. I would agree...to a point.*

I think her statement about raising the revenue cap leads me to believe that she understands that while adding 300 4K  students will increase Elmbrook's income, it would be at a huge expense to the taxpayers. She is also factoring in the increased burden 4K will place on facilities, faculty, and services--none of which are cost free. .

Adding 300 4K students would generate approx. $1,950,000 for Elmbrook's budget, but the majority, about $1.5 million of this comes directly from the Elmbrook taxpayers. Only about $450,000 comes from state aids.

Since the 4K program is estimated to cost Elmbrook around $860,000 out of their school budget, (the Journal recently stated $2 million) it seems foolish to burden Elmbrook's taxpayers with another $1.5 million just to get the $450,000 of "free" state aid money for a program that costs nearly twice that amount.

We cannot enroll our way out of our budget problems. Lucy Ricardo might do that, but intelligent people in the real world would not.

While I would favor some practical budget cuts to reduce the dollar amount needed from the raised revenue cap, Meg's method, in the long run, of raising the budget cap would still save the district taxpayers money and reduce the "student footprint" on the district.

Since the 4K plan could include up to 500 students at some time and we don't have the facility space at present with our current 200, it is not difficult to see that more elementary school additions are in our future.

The High School needs should be the board's top priority right now as far as facilities go. Adding 4K would only add to classroom shortages first at the elementary schools and then telegraph up to the high schools.

If the board wishes the community to take them seriously about our high school needs, then the board must act responsibly now and discontinue 4K. Since it has shown no real academic gains, this 4K program is more of a financial burden to the taxpayer than a benefit.

Be sure to contact the board (Patrick Murphy must be called--he does not use email) and come to the meeting tomorrow night at 7pm.

We may all Love Lucy, but not as Elmbrook's financial adviser!

*I agree...to a point. Simply raising the revenue cap with no effort to cut out the fat in the budget, is not something I would advocate, but even that may be more cost effective than increasing student populations which will prompt the need for more classrooms, teachers, support staff, and services. In a budget as large as the Elmbrook School District's certainly there are places to make thoughtful reductions. 

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