- Press Release
The newest edition of SchoolFacts provides one-stop information for all you need to know about every Wisconsin public school district. It has the most up-to-date figures available from the state all in one place.
Dale J. Knapp or Todd A. Berry
Reduced Revenue Limits Push School Spending Down 5.4% in 2011-12
WISTAX’s SchoolFacts12 Provides Comprehensive School Informationdownload press releasee-mail this link to a friend
MADISON—Wisconsin public schools budgeted to spend $10.28 billion in 2011-12, or 5.4% less than in 2010-11. Expenditures per student dropped 5.1%, from $12,660 to $12,012. The decline was due largely to a 5.5% reduction in state-imposed revenue limits enacted in the 2011-13 state budget. These and other important facts about Wisconsin’s public schools are detailed in SchoolFacts12, the annual reference guide from the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance (WISTAX). For every school district in the state, SchoolFacts provides a wide range of information on spending, revenue, enrollment, staffing, and test scores.
Much of the school spending decline can be attributed to reduced benefit costs. Changes in state law allowed districts to require higher employee contributions for both retirement and health insurance, or to change to lower-cost health insurance providers.
Overall, spending declined the most in areas that are labor intensive. Lower compensation costs—primarily due to reduced benefit costs—for instructional personnel (down 6.8%) resulted in a 5.4% drop in overall instruction costs. Funding for instructional support declined 5.5%. Spending on building and grounds fell 3.3%, while transportation costs rose 1.5% due largely to higher fuel costs.
In addition to reducing revenue limits, the governor and legislature also cut state aid to schools to help balance the state budget. General (or equalization) aids were down 8.3% in 2012 and near 2004 levels, WISTAX said. Categorical aids (e.g., special education and transportation) dropped 6.9% in 2012. Combined, total state aids were $4.89 billion, or 8.1% less than in 2011.
WISTAX’s new SchoolFacts book also has information on school property taxes, which are tied to state general aids and revenue limits. Due primarily to the combined reduction of state aid and revenue limits, statewide school levies fell 1.0% in 2012. The reduction was the first since 2006 and the largest since the 16% drop in 1997 when the state added more than $1 billion to school aids and related tax credits.
Lower revenue limits and falling student numbers led to a continuation of several years of staff declines. The number of teachers fell 1,438 (-2.5%) in 2012. Library staff (-93, -8.9%), support staff (-992, -3.1%), and specialists (-360, -5.6%) also fell by relatively large percentages. There were 75 (-2.1%) fewer administrators in 2012 than in 2011.
WISTAX’s SchoolFacts12 also reports that statewide school enrollments declined more than 700 to 857,082 in 2011-12, their lowest level since 1995-96. Enrollment figures are important because they affect district finances, particularly the size of the district’s revenue limit and its state aid. Despite the decline in statewide numbers, some districts continued to grow. Over the last five years, Geneva J4 increased student numbers 41%, from 91 to 128 students. Several large districts also grew significantly. During 2007-12, Holmen, Kimberly, New Richmond, Oconomowoc, Sun Prairie, and Waunakee each had enrollment increases of 10% or more.
SchoolFacts, the state’s most complete published collection of Wisconsin school district information, also contains summary figures by cooperative educational service agency (CESA) and by district size. Supplemental reports for an athletic conference, a select group of districts, or a district’s history can also be ordered from WISTAX. Now celebrating its 80th year, WISTAX is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to public policy research and citizen education.
SchoolFacts12 can be purchased by writing the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance, 401 North Lawn Ave., Madison, WI 53704-5033; by calling 608.241.9789; or by visiting www.wistax.org. The price per copy is $34.95, plus tax. Discounts are available for WISTAX donors and members.