schools ipad file photo

An elementary school student uses an iPad in a classroom in this January file photo.

M.P. KING — State Journal

The Madison School District is recommending the School Board use a $12 million state aid windfall on a mix of property tax relief, technology upgrades and a potpourri of new spending initiatives aimed at closing student achievement gaps.

Superintendent Jane Belmore recommended using $3.7 million of the windfall to reduce property taxes, the minimum amount necessary under state-imposed revenue limits.

That means the district's property tax levy would increase 3.47 percent, down from the 4.95 percent increase the board approved in June. The tax rate would be $11.71 per $1,000 of assessed value, down from $11.88. For an average $232,024 home, the difference is about $40.

The board could use the remaining $8.1 million on property tax relief, but Belmore is recommending it be used in other ways, including:

  • $3.7 million held in reserves, in case the state overestimated additional aid.
  • $1.6 million to buy iPads for use in the classroom, $650,000 to upgrade wireless bandwidth in all schools and $75,000 for an iPad coach.
  • $1.2 million to account for a projected increase in the district's contribution to the Wisconsin Retirement System.
  • About $800,000 geared toward closing achievement gaps including: three security assistants at Black Hawk, O'Keeffe and Hamilton middle schools; an assistant principal at Stephens Elementary, where the district's Work and Learn alternative program caused parent concerns last year; two teacher leaders to assist with the district's literacy program; a high school math interventionist; increasing the number of unassigned positions from 13.45 to 18.45 to align with past years; and a new student agricultural program.
  • $100,000 to fund the chief of staff position for one year.

Belmore also makes recommendations for the funds for next school year, including using the $3.7 million that goes toward reserves this year for the second year of the district's achievement gap plan. However, the amount of aid the district gets next year will depend greatly on the upcoming state budget process.

The state projected Madison would receive $11.8 million more in state aid than the district anticipated when the School Board approved its preliminary budget in June.

District officials say the discrepancy resulted from underestimating the effect of Madison's new 4-year-old kindergarten program on state aid. State aid is tied to student enrollment counts, and Madison added more than 2,000 students last year, mostly from 4K enrollment.

"In some years we've been hit with unexpected cuts to our state aid, even as enrollment increased," Belmore wrote in a memo released Friday. "In this environment we had to be conservative so we would not have to again deal with unexpected loss in revenue."

Belmore is asking the School Board to give preliminary approval of the recommendations at its monthly board meeting Monday. The board is scheduled to give final approval to the budget sometime between Oct. 22 and Nov. 5.