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Ellsworth School Board gets first look at possible budget adjustments

Possible budget adjustments were presented to the Ellsworth School Board at a special meeting attended by approximately 70 people, including mostly staff but also some citizens, early last week.

Board members didn’t finalize anything, according to Superintendent Barry Cain, but asked him to re-group the potential adjustments he presented for further examination purposes. Depending on if and what’s accepted among 34 categories, the budget savings could range from a low of $809,500 to a high of $1,253,483 under last week’s presentation, Cain said Thursday. He explained exact financial impact couldn’t be applied to some items; for example, the amount resulting from a proposed student insurance cut can’t be calculated until rate increases are known.

The plan to adjust next year’s school district budget on a scale like what was presented last week became necessary after a February referendum asking residents for authorization to exceed the district’s revenue cap by $800,000 a year for three years was defeated. Cain said earlier and now reminded some adjustments would be needed regardless of whether the override referendum question had passed or failed.

The board intends to review separate groups of the adjustment proposals and discuss them at each of several times, he understood. They will have to follow a timeline in some cases; for instance, teachers being non-renewed must be notified by the end of this month, so those decisions will be expected at the regular school board session next Monday to allow sufficient time. However, the deadline for notification to aides and other staffers is the end of the school year. Otherwise, the district’s ongoing fiscal year dictates the time frame.

Opportunities such as the board’s annual reorganizational meeting and additional special meetings will be taken for determinations about adjustments when time limitations aren’t a factor, he said. The board might return to the public with another override referendum at an election this fall, influenced by positive or negative response to the adjustments once finalized.

Studying in-depth Act 32, state legislation which originated with a revenue limit exemption for energy efficiency projects and has more recently been expanded to both that and cost avoidance for major maintenance efforts (not building new), is another option, he said. If pursued, it would be a matter for vote at the district’s annual meeting in August.

Cain highlighted the more significant adjustment proposals Thursday (a complete list is available on the school district’s web site Under staffing, he foresaw some of the savings through retirements, which presently include seven teachers and a total of around a dozen retirees when aides and other positions are listed. Special education would specifically be affected, but the effects would go across-the-board from the elementary schools to the middle school to the high school.

For more please read the April 9 print version of the Herald. 

Bill Kirk

Bill Kirk was editor of the Pierce County Herald in Ellsworth, from 1988 to February, 2015 and is now on staff as a reporter. He holds a bachelors degree in journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. He previously worked in the media distribution department at the University of Minnesota's Minneapolis campus and is past editor of The Tri-County News in Osseo, Wisconsin.

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