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.
Tuesday, about 20 Elmbrook residents gathered at Brookfield El. to discuss state funding and its affect on class sizes. Board member Glen Allgaier attended as well.
We all introduced ourselves and stated the ages and grade level of our children in the Elmbrook school system. I think I was the only person there who never had a child in the Elmbrook system. (I homeschooled my son.) I would say most of the attendees were mothers of grade school aged children.
Assistant Superintendent of Finance Bob Borch spent the majority of the time explaining the intricacies of state funding. (Very worthwhile.) As a result, there was not much time left for discussing class sizes.
Superintendent Matt Gibson did briefly outline how Elmbrook is embarking on a 5 year financial plan. Enrollments are dropping, wage and benefits to employees are rising, and the district is looking at budget shortfalls each year. He said it is estimated that by the 5th year, we are looking at a $9 - $10 million total reduction.
Since 83.5% of Elmbrook's "total expenses" came this school year from salaries and benefits, that leaves very little room for cutting. That remaining 16.5% goes for things like text books and utilities. Dr. Gibson stated that they like to keep salary/benefits percentages at 80% of the budget total; districts that are in trouble are at 90%.
Obviously, this will have to change at some point. Taxpayers cannot continue to support this ever growing percentage of the school budget. Not the percentage itself (83.5%) but the amount of money that 83.5% represents. The total budget from last year, 2007-08, was $82 million. I believe Bob Borch gave a figure of $95 million as the budget for next year, 2009-10.
One area where we could save Gibson said would be to limit special classes such as art, music, some of the applied tech, etc. (Somehow sports are never mentioned.) Another area would be to eliminate some teachers by increasing class sizes.
Dr. Gibson gave a quick look at Elmbrook's current class size averages:
Elementary School: K - 5th grade - 22.5 students/class
Middle School: 6th - 8th grade - 25 - 26 students/class
High School: 9th - 12th grade - English 23.5 students/class
Math 22.4 students/classPhy. Ed. would be a higher ratio. AP, specialty, end of sequence classes (like German 4) have a much lower student/teacher ratio. (I believe some have as few as 12?)
The class sizes mentioned seemed very manageable. They could probably increase by a few students, especially if Chapter 220 students are no longer entering our system after 1st grade. (These students often require more help.)
I wondered how Elmbrook's class sizes compared to the "good old days." So I got out my photo album from my Shorewood grade school days. I counted up the students from the 4 class pictures I could find.
Half day K5 class, 39 students/ 2 teachers (1957) This large class used 1 room and 2 teachers in afternoon; (K4 used the same room and 2 teachers in the morning.)
4th grade - 23 students/class (1961)
5th grade - 23 students/class (1962)
6th grade - 25 students/class (1963)
Pretty close to what is current at Elmbrook. High School classes I remember as being larger than Elmbrook's 22.4 - 23.5/class. But then Elmbrook's figures are averages. That means some have more, some have fewer students/class.
Between now and June 2009, the Elmbrook School district is looking for community involvement in the financial planning process:
The School District of Elmbrook is currently faced with a projected budget shortfall of $1.3 million for the 2009-10 school year. This deficit is anticipated to increase over the subsequent three years. It is a consequence of projected expenses increasing at a rate greater than the approximated 2.5% annual increase allowed by the legislated revenue cap on property taxes.
Here are some of the areas of study:
- Enrollment revenue potential – resident and non-resident
- Other revenue potential
- Class size and/or program/service savings potential by level (elementary, middle & high school)
- Other staffing savings potential
- Negotiations and/or benefits plan design savings potential
- Energy savings potential
If you are interested in participating on a study team, please contact Melinda Mueller at 262-781-3030 ext. 1176 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
I think it is good that the district is looking to long term planning. There is cushion built into the budget, since every year we are told there is this shortfall, yet most years end with a surplus. (At the 2007-08 fiscal year end "Elmbrook Schools spent $1.16 million or 1.4% less than the budget of $82 million.") At some point, with declining enrollment, thus less state aid, this might not always continue.
The district will also be looking at possibly closing a school or two, moving the district office, or even going to referendum to exceed the revenue cap. However, these measures wouldn't be looked into--if at all--until after June 2009
Belt tightening is never pleasant. The real question is, can you find creative solutions that make it less painful?
Brookfield7, Fairly Conservative, Vicki Mckenna, Jay Weber, The Right View Wisconsin, Mark Levin, CNS News