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Falls School Board approves preliminary budget

By Thomas J. McKillen
Managing Editor

The Menomonee Falls School Board approved a preliminary budget that will be presented to the public during the annual meeting next month.
According to information from the district, the proposed levy will be $38,668,835, a 1.02 percent reduction from the current levy. Under the current projections, the tax rate will be 12.35 per $1,000 equalized valuation, a .02 percent reduction from the current equalized levy rate.
(The equalized property value, used to determine the equalized levy rate, is a figure that is derived from all properties in the district, which includes lands that are in the Villages of Butler and Lannon and small portion in the city of Milwaukee in addition to the majority of property which is within the Village of Menomonee Falls).
The general fund revenues for the district under the proposed budget will be $47,175,573, a reduction of .62 percent from the current budget .
Under the proposed budget, a net total of 4.03 full time positions will be eliminated at a savings of $281,847, including 1.45 custodial and maintenance positions, one special education staff person (due to a decrease in the number of students with disabilities), and a total of one full-time educational assistant. Other positions will not  be eliminated entirely but hours will be reduced . 
Also under reductions, the district will be dropping a contract with Children’s Community Center (CCC) for 4-year-old kindergarten and incorporating those students into the early learning center at Ben Franklin Elementary School.
At the start of discussion on the budget, District Business Services Director Jeff Gross explained that all school districts in the state start their budget process with a structural deficit, in which projected expenses are higher than projected revenues which are allowed through the state levy revenue limit. He said the district has made adjustments and the budget has been balanced since March.
During board discussion, Superintendent Patricia Greco referenced the Aa2 bond rating the district received from Moody’s Investors Services.  Additionally, the district has saved $2.5 million in health and benefit costs over the past several years.
The district preliminary budget report also lists several other “points of pride” for the district, including:
•A 32 percent reduction in post employment benefits;
•Approximately $5.8 million in cost avoidance for energy and utility services;
•50 co-curricular and athletic offerings;
•More than 40 college-level courses being offered through the district; and,
•Receiving the Red Quill award from ACT testing services;
Budget goals listed in the document include “prioritizing the strategies to improve student academic achievement, staff performance and continuous improvement in all departments and at each school level in order to prepare students to well and to exceed at the expected performance levels,” sustaining class size at an appropriate level, programming to ensure students make successful college and career transitions, sustain effective operations, and safeguard taxpayers interest investment in the district schools by sustaining high performance.

Included in the budget is an increase in the capital improvement cost budget of $697,450 to complete Ben Elementary School remodeling in one summer instead of two summers.