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Balancing district budget challenging this year

District considers ways to reduce $1.6 million shortfall

May 12, 2009

West Allis-West Milwaukee School District administrators are projecting a $1.6 million shortfall in the 2009-10 budget, but they're hoping to eliminate the gap without cutting programs or staff.

Rather than lay off personnel, Superintendent Kurt Wachholz and Business Services Director Deb Rouse propose reducing staff through attrition and increasing the number of students who attend through the state's Open Enrollment program.

If that is not enough, administrators will consider cutting two administrative positions while seeking grant money to help pay for dean of students positions and capital improvements.

Wachholz declined to specify which administrative positions the district would consider cutting if it cannot make up the budget shortfall.

But he and Rouse were adamant about not presenting the School Board with an unbalanced budget.

Though a preliminary budget was unveiled last week, officials won't present a final proposal until September when the district holds its annual meeting.

More students, more money

During the School Board's first budget work session May 4, administrators emphasized enrollment - which is not surprising, given that the number of students who attend WA-WM schools plays a crucial role in the amount of state funding the district receives.

The number of West Allis and West Milwaukee residents who attend district schools has been on the decline since the mid-1990s, and the trend is expected to continue for at least the next two years.

To combat that trend, while also hoping for more students in Open Enrollment, officials will try to sway more West Allis and West Milwaukee families to stay in their home district.

Faulty funding?

Administrators and School Board members bemoaned the state and federal governments' systems for funding education as contributing to their annual economic worries.

Wachholz and other representatives from West Allis and West Milwaukee testified before a state Assembly education committee in support of a plan to increase state funding for schools.

"Something needs to happen to fix the shortfall in education funding," board member Annette Frymark said. "Until that happens, we're going to have discussions like this."

Mark Schaaf can be reached at (262) 446-6605.

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