After seeing budget cuts plan, Oshkosh school board hopes for state action

Oshkosh school administrators urged board members and the general public to lobby lawmakers for a boost in school funding to alleviate the pressure of perennial budget cuts.

Administrators made the plea while presenting a list of budget cut options to the board for the first time Wednesday night. The list was prioritized by a committee of citizens and district employees over the past few weeks.

The district may have to cut as much as $3.5 million unless the state allows schools to increase revenue caps. Gov. Scott Walker’s biennial budget proposal freezes the caps for the next two years, but two area Republican Senators – Mike Ellis of Neenah and Luther Olsen of Ripon – have proposed allowing the cap to rise at a rate of $150 per student each year.

“It’s our duty to protect public education and stop the assault. The state biennial budget is far from complete, and we have an obligation and opportunity to influence this process,” Business Director Bob Tess told board members.

The revenue increase proposed by Ellis and Olsen would lower the districts projected deficit by roughly $1 million, Tess said.

The budget cut list spans about 10 pages. There are roughly 30 items before the $3.5 million target is hit. Those items include changing school start and end times to cut busing costs, raising fees, eliminating some middle school electives and changing employee pay and benefits, among other cuts.

The board strained over many of the cuts and asked administrators to consider re-prioritizing many items on the list affecting electives, class sizes and other cuts directly impacting students.

“This is like trying to decide which three of your 10 fingers to cut off,” said school board president John Lemberger.

Administrators will continue tweaking the list based on board member suggestions and bring it back for a final vote on March 27.

About Adam Rodewald

Adam Rodewald is the senior reporter for The Oshkosh Northwestern and a member of the Gannett Wisconsin Media Investigative Team. He has been a professional journalist since 2006. He specializes in open records, data analysis, and issues surrounding education, children and families.
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