The ongoing showdown over the state budget between Democratic Gov. Tony Evers and the Republican-held state legislature could affect the Stoughton Area School District later this year.
Board members and district administrators talked about some potential scenarios during an update on legislative matters at Monday night’s meeting, including one that would mean delayed or reduced payments to school districts.
Board member Kathleen Hoppe, the board’s legislative liaison who is following the Joint Finance Committee’s budget work, described a threat by “the JFC and both the senators and representatives who lean conservative that if (Evers) vetoes any portion of this and it gets sent back to them, they’ll cut even more from school and education.”
“I think it’s probably good (Evers is) keeping quiet now (about the budget),” she said. “Hopefully there are some sort of negotiations going on, though (Assembly Speaker) Robin Vos said there is no negotiations, this is the budget.”
Hoppe said Vos has stated that if the budget isn’t finalized by the end of the month, the legislators “will not convene until at least September.”
The deadline to pass the state budget is before the new school year starts July 1, so that timeline would cut into when public school districts are legally required to finalize their budgets, by Nov. 1.
“What happens to our money if they don’t have a budget?” board president Frank Sullivan asked.
District superintendent Tim Onsager said the state could theoretically delay payments to public school districts like Stoughton and “put the district in a short-term bind” that might require a short-term loan. He said the more likely scenario would be the state giving the district the “same dollar amount as last year’s budget.”
“You’re going to have a lot of people and a lot of constituents across the state if they start doing those things that are going to be very unhappy, because it’s going to cost the district and taxpayers more,” he said.
Hoppe also gave an update on proposed Assembly Bill 84, would impose requirements related to school breakfast and lunch programs on certain schools. She said the Wisconsin Association of School Boards (WASB) opposes it because “implementation of any legislative mandate or administrative rule that’s applicable to public school districts can affect the delivery content or conduct of education programming or support service.”
“Unless they come with a legislative commitment by the state or federal government to permanently fund 100 percent of the actual cost or it can be implemented at no cost,” she said.
Sullivan thanked Hoppe for a “through” report, though he offered a humorous admonishment of sorts.
“Maybe if next time if you could come with better news,” he said.