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There is one question on the ballot for the School District of Menomonee Falls that covers temporary funding for operational needs.

The question covers operational funding for the next 3 years to:
  • Maintain class sizes at all levels
  • Sustain neighborhood elementary schools
  • Safeguard course offerings at all levels
  • Protect elective learning opportunities
Wondering what the literal ballot language will look like on
April 4 when you walk into your local polling place? You can find that right here.

Why are we proposing this plan?
  • Rising operational costs continue to outpace the state imposed revenue limit
    •  Local Taxes + State Aid = Revenue Limit
    • The Revenue Limit was set in place in 1993 and the annual revenue limit adjustments have not paced at the same rate as rising costs of energy, health insurance and cost of living since 2010.
    • Significant efforts have been made to be responsible stewards of taxpayer's dollars by increasing employee contributions to healthcare, reducing retirement liability finding cost avoidance measures in energy efficiency and reducing short term borrowing.
  • We are focused on sustaining our community’s high expectations for educational opportunity and student achievement.

If the referendum question is approved, what is the projected net tax impact?

What happens if the referendum fails?

If the referendum fails, the structure of education in Menomonee Falls will change and include the following changes/reductions:

For a full list of what's at risk, click here.


What are the guidelines we use for determining class size?
Parents of our elementary students value keeping the class sizes appropriate.  Parents of our middle and high school students value class size, yet the program offerings for students are also important.     

When a grade level class size goes above the recommended level at one of the elementary schools, the Board considers whether it is necessary to add additional aide time to the classroom or create another section of the grade level.   

At the middle and high school levels, it is often typical that a few individual sections will go above 30 students due to scheduling limitations for the students.  The average will typically be below 30.  At that point, the decision needs to be made whether to limit student enrollment and identify that the courses are full or add an additional section.

How has our projected enrollment compared to our actual enrollment?

Enrollment data from the Department of Public Instruction website may be based on average resident student enrollment and not the total number of students educated.  When we project enrollment for budget and staffing of classrooms, all students educated will be included in the actual count to ensure we have the appropriate number of teachers for the students enrolled.

Elementary Enrollment Chart Summary: We have approximately 82.0 Full Time Equivalent (FTE) Elementary Classroom Teachers serving our 2014‐15 actual enrollment of 1836 students.  The Pre‐kindergarten through 5th grade elementary class size average is 22 for the 2015‐16 school year.   


Where do Wisconsin school district revenues come from?
Wisconsin school districts have two major revenue sources: local property taxes and state aid.   Districts receive minimal federal aid and limited revenue from other sources, but the vast majority of the revenue comes from local taxes and state aid.

Menomonee Falls is primarily funded by local taxes rather than state aid because the district’s property value is high (in comparison to other parts of the State). Property values are the major component in determining the amount of state aid a district receives.

Where do school districts’ spend their money?
Like most organizations and companies, salaries and benefits make up the greatest expenditures of a school district. Most school districts try to spend less than 80 percent of their budgets on salaries and benefits.  

In the School District of Menomonee Falls (SDMF), 68% of its expenditures are on salaries and benefits. Most school districts try to spend less than 80 percent on salaries and benefits (many do not achieve this).

We hear much about revenue limits. Just what is this and how does it work?
The State Legislature implemented a system of revenue limits in 1993 in order to keep taxes down. Districts’ revenues were capped at their level of spending in 1993, and adjustments are made to the revenue limit in each biennial budget approved by the legislature.

Revenue limits are perhaps best described in terms of per‐student allowable spending.  This means the amount of money the state allows a school district to spend per student per year while keeping a balanced budget. Since 1993, revenue limits had increased with inflation (the consumer price index, or CPI), but in each year since 2009‐10, the State Legislature has set the limit lower than CPI. This results in challenges for school districts in keeping up with naturally rising costs of goods and services like heat, light, gas, fuel, insurance, etc.

While districts have become more efficient with resources, years of revenue limits have taken their toll. Efficiencies are harder to find and difficult decisions about programming, staffing and class sizes are forced to be made across the state. We have saved more than $6.4 million on energy in the last 13 years through our cost avoidance energy reduction program, have saved over $3.1 million on insurance benefit changes, and have saved over $15.1 million on retiree benefit changes.  

Our revenue limit has decreased by more than $3.5 million since it stopped pacing with the consumer price index (CPI) in 2009‐10 .

So if state aid increases in a given year, don’t districts’ revenue limits increase?
Oddly, no, and this is a confusing element to the State’s education funding formula. The total dollars to educate students does not change unless the revenue limit per‐student dollar amount is adjusted.   

The State Legislature may vote to increase state aid without raising the revenue limit. Even an increase in the state budget for education (state aid) may not mean an increase in revenue to each district for operating. Since Menomonee Falls is considered “property rich” – it has high property values in comparison to other parts of the State – we receive less state aid to offset our local property taxes than the majority of school districts across the state.

As our state aid decreases, local property taxpayers pay a larger share of the educational costs. Menomonee Falls has lost more than $8.8 million (56%) in state aid since 2007‐2008.

Do property values play a part in educational funding? How?
Yes. Property values impact the amount we receive in state aid through a complex, three‐tiered formula. Menomonee Falls is considered a property wealthy community, therefore, we receive limited state aid.  A portion of our state aid is reduced (thus increasing our local property taxes) and redistributed to educate children across the state from less affluent communities.   

What factors are used to determine the per‐student revenue limit dollar amount?  And why do they differ among districts?
The revenue limit is based on the following three factors: Number of students (3 year average of resident enrollment), Base revenue limit (beginning in 1993), and per‐pupil dollar increase (set by the Legislature every two years with the biennial budget).  Districts’ base revenue in 1993 varied by school district, as did program offerings for students based on what each community valued.   

How does a district’s student enrollment apply to the revenue limit?
The revenue limits are based on student count.  Those districts that are growing in student enrollment are better positioned to sustain programs because their revenues pace more closely to expenditure increases.  Menomonee Falls has been declining slightly in enrollment, therefore, we are more significantly impacted by the revenue limit.  The revenue limit does not keep pace with increasing costs; and with fewer students there is less revenue available to educate all of the children.  As a result, we need to reduce expenditures, which typically leads to staff and programming reductions for students.

How has declining enrollment impacted Menomonee Falls? Why does it seem like we’re pressured more with revenue limits and budgets than neighboring districts? 
Currently, our enrollment is declining slightly; and historically, we have served many more students.  During the course of the 1970’s, our enrollment reached approximately 7,000 students.  Our programming was designed during a time when we served many more students.   Since the revenue limits were instituted in 1993, resources available to sustain these programs are much more limited.  Student performance expectations are higher today, in the core academic areas, than ever before.  Therefore, programs traditionally valued need to be adjusted as our resources have become more limited and performance expectations have increased.  School districts that are experiencing growing enrollments may have started with fewer program offerings (in comparison to what we have traditionally offered).  With (their) new enrollment growth, it adds to their revenue limit and their ability to grow programming. With (our) slightly declining enrollment, coupled with revenue limits not pacing with inflation, the funding we’re allowed to operate with is decreased, which requires us to adjust programming and limits our ability to expand programming.  
What will be the determining factors into which programs will be reduced?
Our Priorities for the Budget process are as follows: 1. Prioritize the strategies to improve student academic achievement, staff performance, and continuous improvement in all departments and at each school level in order to prepare students well and to exceed the expected performance levels. 2. Personnel decisions will prioritize: a. Sustaining class size ratios at an appropriate level b. Programming to ensure students make successful college and career transitions 3. Sustain efficient and effective operations. 4. Prioritize strategic areas of improvement in the budget process 5. Safeguard the taxpayers’ investment in the Menomonee Falls Public Schools by sustaining high performance, strong home values for our Village, and demonstrating a culture of quality.

How will the Leadership Team prioritize reductions and staff layoffs? 
Seniority is no longer the determining factor for layoff and reduction in force.  Some program reductions will be made based on the prioritization stated above.  The balance of the decisions will indeed be challenging ones.   Like any other industry that needs to reduce their workforce, we will need to determine in the process which staff members we will retain and who we will need to reduce.  Determining factors will include performance, ability to work effectively with students, families and colleagues, certification levels and flexibility, specific training that falls in our priority areas, and overall ability to contribute and make a difference in our organization.   

What is the impact of Act 10 on a school district’s budget?
Act 10 gives the authority to school boards to change insurance carriers and other benefits. Many districts had used the Wisconsin Education Association Trust (WEA) health plan for years. With Act 10 in place, many districts switched health carriers and required their employees to contribute more toward their benefit packages. Act 10, however, does not have any impact on the state’s revenue limit statute. While Act 10 provided some ability of school boards to save on benefit plans, it does not allow districts to raise more revenue to keep up with other continual rising costs.  The board weighs the salary and benefit compensation decisions with the district’s available revenues, while remaining competitive in the region, in order to sustain a quality workforce.  

What was the impact of the last teacher contract on the budget?
The last teacher’s contract expired June 30, 2013.  It implemented provisions of Act 10 while Act 10 was being debated in the legislature and the court system. The board decision to approve the contract was driven by a deadline to switch health carriers prior to the start of the 2011‐ 2012 fiscal year (July 1st). While there was some question of whether or not Act 10 would be approved in the legislature and whether or not it would be overturned by a court, the district implemented the provisions of Act 10 in its contract, which was agreed upon by the School Board and the Menomonee Falls Education Association (the teachers union at the time). It’s important to note that if Act 10 would not have been approved by the legislature or if it had been overturned by a court, the school district would still have implemented its provisions as they were outlined in the mutually agreed upon teachers contract.

What is the status of union membership and collective bargaining?
There are currently no collective bargaining groups or unions in the District.  Employees decertified the last collective bargaining group back in 2013.  The collective bargaining agreements have been replaced with uniform Employee Handbooks which were last approved by the Board in 2013.

What has the District done to manage salary and benefit costs?
General Fund salary and benefits costs totaled $35.6 million in 2010‐11 (before Act 10) and were reduced to $33.2 million in 2011‐12 (the year after Act 10).  Since then, salary and benefit costs have continued to decline to $32.7 million (2015‐16 budget).  The lower costs have been achieved through a combination of a lower number of employees as well as through benefit plan design changes.

What does the District offer as a current health plan?
The district offers a ‘qualified’ high deductible PPO health plan to eligible employees with $2,000 single and $4,000 family in‐network deductibles (the district moved to a self‐insured plan back in 2013). Out‐of‐network deductibles are $4,000 single and $8,000 family.  The District does not contribute towards offsetting the deductible and employees pay a flat dollar premium share equivalent to 7.5% of total plan costs.  The District will continue to work toward balancing the need to offer a market competitive plan and control plan costs.   The recent health benefit changes save more than 34% or $3.0 million per year and has reduced the retirement benefit liability by 67% or more than $16.9 million. 

If the referendum question is approved on April 4th, what will the school tax impact be on my $200,000 home?
That answer is easy to find for any home value. Click on over to our Referendum Tax Calculator to find out the exact impact on your home.
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