WEST ALLIS - A proposed budget containing $1.5 million in savings including higher school fees and moving feeder sports to the recreation department will go to the West Allis-West Milwaukee School Board Monday, June 26 for preliminary approval.

The spending plan calls for a 1.76 percent higher property tax levy that translates to an estimated school property tax rate rise of 17 cents per $1,000 of full market value. That means the owner of a $100,000 home would pay $17 more in school property taxes for the 2017-18 school year. The total school tax tab would move from the estimated current $977 for the owner of a $100,000 home to $994 next year, according to school district estimates.

These are only estimates because taxpayers pay taxes based on the assessed values of their properties, not the full market values. However, the assessed values are supposed to be close to full market values.

A public hearing on the proposed 2017-18 school budget will be held Sept. 18.

The plan

School fees would rise a proposed $10 and athletic fields $10 per sport, under the proposed spending plan.

Also, the busing changes would eliminate busing for students who do not attend their neighborhood schools. 

Another busing change would move the Horace Mann Elementary School start time a half hour earlier to 8:30 a.m. Savings would be realized because the same school bus could then be used to take Horace Mann students to and from school and then could come back and take students who attend another school, said Andrew Chromy, director of finance and operations. The other school which would be in the bus share would be up to the bus company that holds the busing contract, he said.

Those changes plus tightening up routes and having better busing tiers could save as much as $250,000, school officials estimate.

Not $2.5 million

The school board last week approved those changes that are among $1.5 million in cuts and revenue enhancers needed to balance the budget. The cuts come after voters turned down a request to levy $2.5 million more in property taxes than the state levy cap allows for each of the next five years. 

As it turns out, the district won't need the entire $2.5 million to get along. That's because financial information is more firm than it was earlier this year and because of other factors, Chromy said.

Not only would the budget be balanced, but there would be a little left over that could be put into the reserves to help get the district onto firmer financial footing, Chromy said. However, some school board members have proposed other uses for that money.

Other budget adjustments approved to get to that $1.5 million include:

  • Moving intermediate school athletics to the West Allis-West Milwaukee Recreation Department, for a savings of $176,627;
  • Having performance compensation (roughly equivalent to merit pay) only for teachers for a savings of $800,000;
  • Delaying implementation of the Discovery Academy, a pilot Next Generation individualized inquiry learning high school for a savings of $154,534;
  • Dropping the district technology programmer position, $121,500;
  • Reducing by half the number of student deans, $202,143.

Share devices

Another major budget highlight is a move somewhat away from every child having an iPad or a Chromebook, at least for now. Students will have to share, instead, Chromy said.

Also, students will not be able to take their devices home, he said. That will help keep breakage down, he said.

The proposed budget includes $700,000 as the first of three payments on buying 4,040 new iPads. The total cost is $1.3 million over three years, plus new Chromebooks. 

The proposed budget contains raises of 1.26 percent across the board to keep pace with the inflation rate last year. The proposal also accounts for a projected 6 percent rise in health care costs.

Sale on track

School officials are looking forward to being able to put the $6.75 million it plans to get from the sale of property into its reserves. The district has an accepted offer to sell the buildings that house the district office, the alternative high school and the area between the two to developer Cobalt Partners. The company has not announced what it wants to do with the buildings.

The six-month period for Cobalt to do its due diligence is nearly over and Chromy said the sale is still on track.

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