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  Sunday December 21st, 2014    

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Surprise! WAPS staff say no budget cuts for '14-'15 (11/24/2013)
By Sarah Squires

1 percent increase penciled in for union deals

Winona Area Public Schools (WAPS) Finance Officer Dan Pyan announced Thursday that, based on his latest projections, the district's budget will not have to be reduced for the 2014-15 school year. Cuts are still on the horizon, however, with an estimated $1.35 million in needed reductions between 2016 and 2018.

Just three weeks ago, Pyan's estimated range of needed budget cuts was between $300,000 and $700,000 for the upcoming school year, a range he said was wide due to the uncertainty of how union contracts, which are currently under negotiation, would be settled.

On Thursday, Pyan presented budget numbers that assumed a modest one percent increase in the cost of union deals, and added increases in the state funding formula that were approved during the last legislative session. An unexpected increase in pupil units for fiscal year 2014 will add an extra $335,000 to district coffers, along with more than $400,000 in added state funding for the district. For fiscal year 2015, Pyan told the board that funding increases would add more than $800,000 in new revenue, but the increase would be softened by an anticipated $417,000 loss due to projected declining enrollment that year.

District leaders must still prepare for anticipated reductions between 2016 and 2018 of about $1.35 million, Pyan told the board. The district's current referendum, which increases revenue by up to $6 million annually, will be in effect until 2018,. Pyan said that WAPS leaders should likely seek another local property tax hike in 2016 or 2017. Superintendent Scott Hannon told the Winona Post that it is a "rule of thumb" to seek a referendum one year in advance in this case, 2016 in case the ballot measure is not approved by voters, which would give the district time to attempt the referendum a second time before prior extra levy funding expires.

Union talks

The district negotiating committee has formally met once with the teachers' union, the largest bargaining group and the biggest district expense. On Thursday, board members asked about the assumptions made about how union contracts would be settled.

"We can't really say we don't need to make budget adjustments, not knowing the [outcome of negotiations]," board chair Mohamed Elhindi said.

"Let's be realistic," replied Pyan. "I don't think we're going to be settled by the time we do the budget. We're not going to negotiate the contract[s] through the budget."

The board is expected to review a draft of the 2014-2015 budget during its next regular meeting. 

 

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