The Bonduel School Board recently gave the approval to move forward with a district referendum for the April 4 election. The district will ask voters for an additional $1 million on an annual basis for the next three years.
The district has dealt with a challenging budget in recent years, and is facing a deficit totaling just over $2.85 million over the next three years.
“There’s a need for additional funding and we feel we’ve trimmed our expenses as much as possible without affecting what happens in the classrooms and the programs that we offer,” said Bonduel District Administrator Patrick Rau. “If we have to make the budget work, we would have to go forward and look at programs, look at staffing members, to reduce that deficit and balance the budget.”
Already, Rau says the district has made as many cuts as they can over the past five years, such as reducing the staff by 12, contracting out custodial staffing, and eliminating bussing routes. Part of the reason the board felt confident moving forward with a referendum was when they saw the results of the community survey that was sent out.
“We proposed three different referendum questions for all residents,” Rau said. “In the district, we had 71 percent of the respondents favor a referendum. When we looked at the non-parent residents, 63 percent of them favored a referendum.”
Rau explained it was encouraging to see the non-parent responses at that figure, demonstrating the importance the community of Bonduel places on public education. In addition, over 70 percent of respondents were satisfied or very satisfied with the services of district.
As for the referendum amount, the board came to the consensus that receiving $1 million annually would allow the district to continue its services without moving backwards.
“Any amount less than $1 million, we felt we would have to make some cuts at some point, if not immediately then down the road,” explained Rau. “Some of the things that money would go to, going back to the survey, what the community felt is most important, post-secondary planning for life after high school. That starts with the fundamentals of reading and math, making sure we have the best materials, and best teachers for that.”
The survey indicated the importance of recruiting and maintaining a high-quality staff, maintaining services for struggling students, and overall improvement in math and reading scores.
The district will also be keeping an eye on the state budgets that the governor will roll out during the referendum period, including the one from Governor Walker on Feb. 8, which could offer the Bonduel School District some help.
“One is transportation aid; there could be some additional dollars there,” Rau said. “They talked about sparsity aid, which traditionally we don’t qualify for, but it sounds like they’re expanding that. Any more revenue does help, but it’s not going to offset $400,000. There’s still a need.”
The $400,000 deficit is what the district will be facing in the 2017-2018 school year. The next step for the district will be implementing their communication plan for residents to be able to make an informed decision on the referendum in April. Plans are to speak to local organizations and hold town hall meetings for any questions the public may have.