The Superior School District is facing a significant financial cliff in the next couple of years and they want the community to know about it before they have to act on it.

How significant? Try $4 million for the 2024-2025 school year alone, unless the Wisconsin legislature lifts the cap on per pupil revenue.

The problem is that current budgets for the Superior School District are being financially assisted by federal funds.  According to details shared in an article in the Superior Telegram [paywall], the Superior School District currently is "cushioned by an infusion of federal funding through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund and Governor's Emergency Education Relief Grant dollars".

But that funding is going away. And that presents a problem.

Superior School District Administator Amy Starzecki has been working hard to inform the community about the impending shortfall and what plans (if any) are already in place to accommodate the problem. Her effort to be transparent with the community was detailed in a letter that went out to school families on January 13.

In the letter, Starzecki is quick to point out that even with the projected shortfall, they are not "approaching the community for an operating referendum." Instead, Starzecki says that "[a]t this time, the plan to address the deficit will be a reduction in staffing and programs".

Here are some more key points from the letter from Starzecki that went out to Superior School families:

  • Wisconsin schools have seen "little or no increases" in state funding in recent years.
  • The federal relief funding will "no longer be available" as of the 2024-2025 budget.
  • Inflation has played a major role in the increased costs that the district is seeing.  Many large-ticket budget items (i.e. health insurance, utilities, and transportation) have gone up considerably.
  • Student enrollment has decreased. Projects show a continued decline in enrollment numbers. This becomes an issue as enrollment is "a key factor in the revenue provided to districts each year".
  • Employee shortages / Competitive salary demands: In order to both attract and retain employees, the district - similar to other industries - has had to provide salary increases. But unlike "other employers [who] can increase revenue to address the increases in staff salaries", the district can't.

Starzecki wrapped up the letter by pointing out that many factors that determine the outcome have yet to be solidified and that things could change. She offers:

"It's important there is transparency about how decisions are made that impact our schools. We will continue to update our community as we learn more about the 2023-2025 biennium budget. I encourage you to stay connected to the discussions that will be occuring at the school board level in the months ahead."

Superior District Administrator Amy Starzecki's letter that went out to school families is available on their website.

Earlier this month, the State of Wisconsin released their annual report card grades for school districts.  While a few of the schools in Superior fared well (the high school actually reversed course on a prior down-slide), two of the schools received scores that the state says "meets few expectations".

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