Brookfield — The Elmbrook School Board will present a 0.2 percent spending decrease for its proposed 2013-14 budget at the annual budget hearing Monday.
Spending is expected to decrease from $78.8 million in 2012-13 to $78.7 million this year. Preliminary estimates show the tax levy at $66.6 million and the tax rate increasing from $10.24 to $10.33 per $1,000 of equalized valuation.
Erik Kass, the district's assistant superintendent for finance, operations and human resources, said the largest area of spending is in staffing, representing 80 percent of the budget. He said the district is projecting a 1 percent increase in salaries and a 6 percent increase in its health insurance costs.
He said the almost flat budget also is influenced by two factors: a general staff turnover and a restructuring of facilities personnel.
"We have turnover so you normally have a decrease there because new people are a little less expensive," Kass said.
The most significant staffing cuts have come in the facilities management area, the last group of employees transitioning out of collective bargaining after the implementation of Act 10. The result was a reduction of 10 full-time equivalents.
"There was a restructuring; we eliminated some positions and took some full-time to part-time," he said.
While administrative and academic areas did not see significant cuts, the district budget is affected by sequestration, the process by which the federal government is making cuts in the absence of its formal budget. Kass said a prime example is the district's special education program.
"We receive a bit over $1 million, and this year there will be an 8.1 percent decrease that will be between $80,000 and $100,000," Kass said. "One way to look at it is the equivalent of one teacher."
Kass said districts that are hit this way have the choice of funding through other means or cutting staff. Tanya Friedrich, director of special education, was not available for comment before press deadline.
Kass joined the district Aug. 2 and is president of K-12 Solutions, a school district consulting firm. He said Elmbrook is in good financial shape.
"Budgeting is always a challenge with declining or minimal resources but I can tell you as someone who is new to the district that Elmbrook is very well positioned to react to things that happen," Kass said. "Our goal is to funnel as much of our resources into our classrooms."
Hansen said the budget supports a number of initiatives.
"Improving our literacy program is noteworthy," Hansen said, noting that it is a kindergarten through 12th-grade effort that includes professional development for instruction. "The budget also provides a commitment to a pre-engineering program at the two middle schools with a partnership from the Elmbrook Education Foundation, and that has been in place for grades six, seven and eight."
Other budget commitments, he noted, include "embedding technology into our instructional program" and maintaining an elementary classroom size averaging just under 23 pupils.
To address an ongoing concern over government funding and its ties to enrollment, Hansen said, the district will continue to monitor the impact of the voucher program and look for ways to continue providing high-quality instruction.
"The district has so much to be proud of," he said. "Whether I am at a Rotary group or at a superintendent chat, I get a sense of great confidence."
WHAT: budget hearing
WHERE: Central Administrative Offices, 13750 Hope St.
WHEN: hearing at 6 p.m. Monday, annual meeting at 7 p.m., followed by regular board meeting
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