General State Aid for 2010-2011: A $1.5 Million Sliver of Sunshine Amidst the Gloom

On July 1, the Department of Public Instruction released its estimates of how  much general school aid each school district in the state is slated to receive for 2010-2011.  According to DPI’s hot-off-the-presses calculations, MMSD is in line for about $45.3 million in general aid, down from $51.5 million in 2009-2010.

There are three components of this figure that warrant comment (though it’s important to bear in mind that DPI’s numbers are all estimates and so all the figures in this post should be considered tentative.)  First, a straight application of the state’s school funding formula would yield $42 million in general aid for MMSD.  Second, the district qualifies for an additional $1.8 million because of the statutory requirement that each district receive at least 85% of the general aid amount it had received in the previous year.  Third, the district also is in line for about $1.5 million as the result of an obscure (at least to me) but welcome provision of the last state budget bill.

Those who follow this stuff may remember that there was an outcry after the Governor recommended cutting an additional $147 million in state aid to schools at the tail-end of the budget process and it appeared that that cut may have had a dramatically adverse impact on some districts in the state, including Madison.  As best I understand it, this provision (section 9139 of 2009 Act 28 calls for the general aids calculations to be run twice, once with the $147 million cut and once without.  Those school districts that lost more than 10% of their general aids as the result of the $147 million cut thereby became entitled to an extra bump in state funding.  For Madison, that worked out to about $1.5 million.

As the result of this bonus amount, our general state aid will go down about 12% this year, and not the maximum 15% cut we were expecting.  For budget purposes, we have been planning on receiving $43.8 million in general state aid, (2010-2011 Amended Preliminary Budget Book at 1-62) and DPI now estimates that we’ll receive $45.3 million instead.  This is good.  Our general unhappiness about the state funding formula shouldn’t keep us from expressing gratitude when someone takes the initiative to tweak the formula in a way that’s beneficial for us.  So thanks to whoever was responsible for this.  We’ll do our best to spend the extra $1.5 million wisely.

Even with our extra funding, we still do relatively poorly on this year’s state aid compared to what we and other districts received last year.  In absolute terms, Madison is, hands down, the biggest loser.  Our general aid decreases by $6.2 million this year compared to last.  The next biggest loser, Appleton, sees its general aid dip by just shy of $3 million.

Locally, Middleton-Cross Plains and Wisconsin Heights actually sustain bigger percentage cuts in general aid than Madison – about 15.1% for each.  This translates into a loss of $1.6 million for Middleton and $562,000 for Wisconsin Heights.  Sorry, folks  – we feel your pain.  Monona Grove loses $651,000, or 5.2%.   Oregon, Verona and Stoughton all lose in the neighborhood of 2.5%.

On the other hand, general aid to Waunakee increases by 6.4%, or $1.1 million.  The big local winner is Sun Prairie.  Its general aid goes up a whopping 12.3%, or $3.5 million.  In absolute terms, this was the fourth biggest jump in the state, behind Green Bay and Racine and just slightly behind Kenosha.  Who can explain it?  Not me.

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