After months of uncertainty about the state’s upcoming biennial budget, Oregon School District officials were pleased about the final result Gov. Tony Evers signed into law July 3.
Included in Evers’ 78 line-item vetoes was a measure to increase per-pupil allocations by $87 million over the next two years and an overall increase of around $65 million more than the Republican-controlled Legislature had approved.
And it happened much sooner than some expected.
At Monday night’s school board meeting, district superintendent Brian Busler provided a cheerful update on last week’s events, contrasting the news with some of the “conversation, rhetoric and discussion that has gone on.”
“A couple months ago, we heard the state budget will not be approved until October after boards set their tax levies, (and) public schools will operate on the previous biennial budget, and the entire budget will be vetoed and the process started over,” he said.
Instead, the net effect of Evers’ vetoes will add “a little over $200 a year for all students in the state for both years,” Busler said, with some coming in revenue caps and others in a per-pupil basis.
“The fact is, we have the money that we placed in our budget, and there’s also an increase for the first time in I believe 10 years that special education funding is going to increase,” he said. “That’s a big step – not as far as we’d like that step to be, but there will be another state budget.”
The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction’s July 1 state aid report announced the district would receive an additional $225,000 in state aid with the changed state budget. Busler said that doesn’t mean additional spending authority for the district, but it will be “money that will help reduce our tax levy.”
“All in all, I would give this year’s budget two thumbs up,” he said. “It’s been a long time since we’ve seen increases at the level were receiving, and also increases in special education,” he said. “And while it’s not perfect and our appetite for educational funding is quite strong, it’s still an incredible state budget for us.”
Board president Steve Zach asked for an updated worksheet to reflect the new revenues and “if there’s anything left in terms of priorities.” Busler said between now and the district’s annual meeting in November to approve the 2019-20 budget, business manager Andy Weiland would “sift through the budget data and get us prepared.”