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Falls School Board OKs $42 Million Spending Plan

Despite loss of funding, district balances budget without cuts in programs or increasing property taxes.

The Menomonee Falls School Board Monday approved the final version of the 2011-12 budget proposal, a $42 million plan that calls for spending about $2.2 million less than last year.

Administrators balanced the budget in per-pupil revenues, roughly a $3.3 million drop in funding.

Administrators maintained class sizes and programs despite the deep cuts to funding and property as a result of the budget, officials say.

General fund revenues, which include state and federal funding, fell by 8.4 percent to $46.8 million.

To match the decrease in funding, the district also tightened its belt and reduced overall general fund expenditures by 4.87 percent, from $44.2 million to $42 million.

Overall, the budget features a slight decrease in the equalized property tax rate, which will fall from $11.71 per $1,000 of value to $11.62. That equates to a property tax bill of roughly $2,904 for a home valued at $250,000. That’s about $24 less than last year.

The total tax levy is $37.9 million, which is 3.3 percent lower than 2010-11.

The district will save $1.2 million by switching from health providers from the WEA Trust plan to Humana. The employee contribution toward retirement opened $1.3 million in savings as well. The district also expects to reduce its energy and gas usage by 38 percent.

By adding 46 seats through open enrollment, the district will generate about $300,000 in additional revenue. It also stashed away $400,000 from the Federal Education Jobs Act fund.

In the long-term, the district was able to lower its post-retirement benefits costs. Future retirement liabilities were reduced from $22 million to $6 million overall through a recent contract agreement with the teachers union.

The began in November and underwent numerous revisions. The proposal approved by the board on Monday will move for approval at the district’s annual meeting, which will begin at 6:15 p.m. Sept. 12. The meeting will be held in the auditorium to accommodate the residents who may choose to attend.

The purpose of the annual meeting is to update the community on the state of the school district, and to allow the public to share its views on the budget. The budget will not be final until the district's property tax levy is certified in November.

The complete budget proposal is attached on the article page as a PDF file.

Mary August 23, 2011 at 01:37 PM
Interesting figures,, however, my house is worth about 179,000 and my tax bill last year was about 3,740.00 I wonder where they got the figures for a 250,000 dollar house at 2,904.00?? I want to buy THAT house. REminds me of the old saying "figures don't lie, but liars can figure."
Craig August 23, 2011 at 02:16 PM
@Mary...That is because the article is only referring to the school tax portion of your bill.
Verycynical August 23, 2011 at 02:31 PM
Whewwww .... OK for this year. What about next year when there is no Jobs money, Humana raises its rates, we can't get anymore from the teachers, and state aid only sneaks up a itty-bitty amount, if at all? Oh yeh, and when do we talk about the opportunities our kids actually need to learn? We keep putting into law protections for adults and taxpayers (revenue limits, for example) but nothing that protects kids chance for a successful education.
Craig August 23, 2011 at 03:01 PM
If the school board hadn't snuck in an 11th hour contract our taxes would have gone down this year. Now we have to wait two years. If more cuts are needed next year, administration is the place to cut. Our schools are very top heavy. Too many assistant principals and guidance people. Most students do not even know their guidance person. The problem with education has been an ongoing issue, throwing money at it is not working. Class size is not the problem either. Hope the new superintendant has some ideas to fix this issue.
The General August 23, 2011 at 03:04 PM
This is more self-aggrandizement from the school board. They cut the budget, but our property taxes won't increase? How magnanimous. HOW ABOUT A DAMNED PROPERTY TAX CUT? Maybe their new motto should be "MFSD - Paying the same for less." And P.S. - Patch is complicit in this scam by perpetuating the myth and calling it news.
Verycynical August 23, 2011 at 05:12 PM
Craig, The General (love that) .... you're kidding, right? Cuts, property tax decreases, throwing money away -- how much KoolAid have you guys had? Kids need opportunities to learn if they are to be successful in school. If they are successful in school, the chances of them being successful in life are much greater ... higher earning potential, happier, healthier, less likely to go to jail, probably won't be in the social service system .... all the proven benefits of quality education in this country and around the world. If that is what we have, our taxes will be lower -- because we need fewer services, not because you think you are entitled to lower taxes. I know what I say seems quaint. I get that, because when you have no sense of society or the commons, that's what happens. Don't look to the schools for why the state and country is as it is, just look in the mirror.
Unions_NO August 23, 2011 at 08:48 PM
@Verycynical: regarding your comment "and when do we talk about the opportunities our kids actually need to learn"...and yet somehow the religious schools and the homeschooling moms manage to get their kids to "actually learn" - any many, many times outperforming the public school kids. If you were a religious school administrator and you KNEW you had to get by with less, you would somehow make it work. Funny how that happens without the govt "nanny-stating" them to death.
Unions_NO August 23, 2011 at 08:56 PM
Make me puke...@Verycynical...so how much is enough? Give me a number. I bet you are one who also says we should all be paying more taxes too. If you cannot sleep at night becuase you are concerned that kids will end up in the social service system if we just don't spend more money on their education, then feel free to mail in more of your money to the state, if you so choose. Those who say, we need more...more is never enough. It is not about cutting services..it is about careful consideration of the bloated excess of anything that receives govt funding. For those suckling at the govt. teet, if you know it will always be there, WHERE is your incentive to run more effectively, as in the real world of commerce...(case in point-shove through that extension). I love how more schools all OVER the state are finally in the black, being freed up from their personnel contributions...heaven forbid THAT is reported as news.
Craig August 23, 2011 at 08:59 PM
I do not think what you say is quaint, I think it is ignorant.
Verycynical August 23, 2011 at 09:09 PM
Unions_NO: If anything you said was true, it might be worth discussing ... but it's not, true. Go to http://www.excellentschools.org to see about the rest of the state. Schools being the black is, at best, a one-year phenomenon and, for most schools, isn't even true. As to the educational benefit from private schools: Show me where it says that. Study after study of the Milwaukee voucher program says, at best, the results are the same as the public schools. Also, I have no doubt there are quality private schools (by the way, some of the best schools in the country are public schools in Milwaukee .... truth be told). What you will find is that as a group, private schools that spend more on instruction are the better private schools .... again, fact. Finally, and I know this will be hard for your to admit or believe, but school district administrators and boards all over the state who have managed to "be in the black" by spending less on teaching readily admit that they fear what is going to happen to the profession of teachers. One last nonsensical anecdote: If unions were bad for learning, why do the most unionized states (formerly Wisconsin, Massachusetts, New York, etc.) do a better job of educating kids than non-unionized states (like "pick one" anywhere in the South). Just a thought.
Verycynical August 23, 2011 at 09:10 PM
Union_NO: By the way, man, clean up your own puke.
Verycynical August 23, 2011 at 09:14 PM
Craig: Nice come back, man! Let's talk about what is really happening in Falls' schools and others. For example, how many guidance counselors are there and do you really believe they are excess baggage and top heavy? Sad. The reason kids don't know them is that there aren't enough of them to keep up with the need. My guess is the last time you were in a public school was quite some time ago ... at least in a school to see what is really happening vs. just whining about your property taxes. You need to take Belling and Sykes off the radio for a while and actually do some real research.
Verycynical August 23, 2011 at 09:49 PM
Nate: Your opinion of guidance counselors isn't being shared by those who actually know what's going on. Sorry. Also, I note that you quoted your property taxes. My house is worth a lot less and my taxes are proportionately less. You have, I suppose, restated a fact. The point is that those high property taxes were forced on Menomonee Falls by Governor's and Legislatures of both parties that have abandoned their responsibility ... vis a vis the constitution ... to provide every child in Wisconsin with a high quality education that is free and appropriate. Your property taxes are too high, no doubt about it. It isn't, however, the fault of the school board. It is the fault of weak-kneed politicians who cater to their bases rather than bite the bullet and do what is right for you and me in the long run. Denying kids a quality education is like .... well, it's like cutting off your proverbial nose to spite your proverbial face. Think it through, man.
Verycynical August 23, 2011 at 11:25 PM
I gave you examples of children losing opportunities -- today, tomorrow, and yesterday -- and the well-documented affect of those losses. If you won't accept facts, that's on you not me. Taking care of you isn't the Governor's job. You've got legislators, lobbyists, and Tea Partiers. Taxes, whether you believe it or not, have never been lower. It is not the job of government to lower taxes. It is government's job to deliver goods and services and protect the commons. Most of us appreciate that and, while we may grouse, are smart enough to know that taxes are the cost of a civil society. Again, whether you know it or not, schools have cut hundreds of millions of dollars in opportunities over the last 20 years. If there ever was fat to cut .... which is in most cases the same urban legend as welfare queens in Cadillacs ... it is no longer true. Kids roaming the street has never been the problem .... a quality education is. You are the problem: Selfish, in-the-moment, short-sighted. Get over yourself and think about the future.
Craig August 24, 2011 at 03:10 AM
@Verycynical: I just had a kid graduate from MFHS in June with a 5.7 GPA, I think I know what I am talking about. When I attended the same high school we had twice the amount of students. One Principal and one assistant Principal. Now, with half the students there are several Assistant Principals, and some who are 'consultants'. One assistant principal does the job of an attendance clerk, at a much higher rate of pay, but not nearly as effective or efficient as a typical clerk. My kid was asked by a department head to enroll in a class usually not offered as a Junior. Guidance told my kid the class was filled repeatedly, and the schedule could not be changed. After multiple attempts to resolve, my child asked for my help. When we showed up in the Guidance department for a meeting with the Dept head who confirmed there were still open spots, the guidance counselor blew up at my kid claiming scheduling conflicts with the other classes. As she named them, it became apparent she did not know who my kid was. It turned out to be a case of mistaken identity. I gloated when my kid said to the GC, " I am far from your computer screen, but that student picture doesn't appear to look anything like me." Get rid of the dead weight! Focus on what is important- the education.
Verycynical August 24, 2011 at 01:45 PM
As far as anything I've said, Nate, I never mentioned the government taking care of everything. That is a myth that some folks have perpetuated to get other folks angry, paranoid, and ready to vote against their self-interest. The job of government, according to the founding fathers, is to level the playing field. It isn't to guarantee anyone success but to guarantee everyone the opportunity for success -- the definition of the public school system. Government is failing at that job.
Verycynical August 24, 2011 at 01:53 PM
Craig ... we can argue anecdotes until the cows come home. I hope you drew the attention of the administration to the guidance counselors lack of ability and professionalism. If you are telling the truth, that person should be disciplined. That one instance, however, doesn't argue against research, facts, history, and common sense. I might argue, for example, that your guidance counselor incident was the result of not enough guidance counselors to handle a large student population. I might also argue that it isn't the sole job of guidance counselors to do high school schedules, but instead to help young people plan their futures. My point is we know what works to help kids have the opportunities to succeed. We aren't doing what we need to do to make that happen. Instead, we talk about our taxes, dead weight, and cutting programs and services. If it doesn't work -- and the research proves it -- don't do it. As you said, we need to focus on education, and willy-nilly cutting hundreds of millions of dollars in state aid to schools over two decades ... in order to pretend we balanced the state budget and saved us all from a pretend catastrophe .... isn't the way to do what you and I both want to do.
Craig August 24, 2011 at 03:02 PM
When someone can formulate a plan that will make education better we all can determine what price we are willing to pay. The current methodology is not working, and the growing administrative positions are just a waste. There were 7 Guidance people last year serving half of the students when I was there. In 1983 we had three. My kid graduated with 29 college credits, and is going on to pre med. Never once did a Guidance person meet with her about future plans. They may be busy working with the problem kids, and maybe THAT is the issue that needs to be addressed. Guidance also was supposed to inform kids about scholarships offered by CMH who were interested in the medical field- they only informed one student! Teacher's found out about it and (on the last day) told those students who they knew were looking into the profession. The teachers got the deadline to file extended so all students could have the opportunity. Seven Guidance people- one student....draw your own conclusions on that one. I would be happy to spend more money on the schools if it makes a difference, the focus needs to shift to the kids and not growing the administration. The mamby pamby rules allow for students and sometimes parents who don't care to stay there. Certainly this needs to change to have a positive effect. Should we move all disruptive students to another building? Whatever the answers are- we haven't found them yet.
Verycynical August 24, 2011 at 04:42 PM
Craig: I'm still not sure I buy your "story" but I don't have any reason to disbelieve you. If that is the case, then something went wrong. That doesn't, in the least, indicate that the administration is needed and isn't superfluous as you claim. If run like a business, as so many misguided folks often claim, our schools would have many more mid-level managers. That aside I think, in general, I agree with you. We need a system of school funding that meets the needs of kids. We need to determine what is needed ... I would say, at the least, highly effective teachers, universal quality pre-school, challenging courses, and equitably distributed resources for every child in the state ... and then devise a funding system to make it happen by equitably sharing the tax burden among individuals and businesses. Such a system exists and it is called the adequacy model. Let's work together to make it happen.
Verycynical August 24, 2011 at 04:43 PM
I forgot .... good luck to your daughter.
Disappointed September 12, 2011 at 03:51 PM
I am certainly late in the game on commenting but I decided in February to look at Open Enrollment in other districts due to the numerous problems in the M.Falls school district, from poor test scores, teachers with poor attitudes, seemily lack of control of students bullying and lack of programs in place. I moved her a few years ago and on the advice of co-workers M.Falls was the best. I have not seen that at all. I am sure that the AP students and those with high GPA are doing great and now have even more. It is the unfortunate handling of the average student that they allow to fall through the cracks that led me to leave. I gave them every chance through communicating to make me believe this was the best education, but I found excuse after excuse not solutions for improvement. I was truly saddened by reading the power point presentation on minorities and the difference in how they did on test scores. My other children survived M. Falls, private, public charter, open enrollment etc. There are numerous better choices than waiting for the school district to fix their problems while my child education slips away. So they will pay more through open enrollment for my child to attend another district than I pay in taxes, irony, truly irony.

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