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Edgar now faces $100K deficit

School board delays CESA 10 contract because of referendum

With a failed referendum, Edgar School District faces a $100,000 deficit next school year, district bookkeeper Morgan Mueller told the Edgar Board of Education last week Wednesday.

Mueller said the district’s deficit, not including health insurance or administrative and support staff pay increases, stands at around $60,000. A predicted 5 percent increase in health insurance premiums will cost an extra $40,000, she said, increasing the deficit to $100,000.

Mueller told board members the district held off on maintenance spending this year as a way to balance the district budget, but that this may be harder going forward. She noted that the high school gym and science room had leaky roof sections that needed to be fixed.

Mueller reported Gov. Evers would like to increase K-12 state aid, but that his proposal would largely provide property tax relief to taxpayers, not help schools pay for operations.

“It would be good for property taxes, but not for new spending,” she said.

Board members did not talk much about last week’s unsuccessful referendum, but they did agree, as suggested by board member Gary Lewis, to be more careful about spending.

Board members approved a $34,229 contract with CESA 9 for services, including $6,200 for a reading specialist, but held off for a month before approving a CESA 10 contract. CESA 10 runs the distance learning CWETN network that Edgar Public Schools use.

Mueller said the $100,000 deficit was no surprise. She predicted a $92,000 deficit last fall when she briefed school board members on the district’s deteriorating financial situation.

Elementary school principal Lisa Witt offered some good news on the school finance front.

She reported being “pretty excited” about a large number of students who showed up at the annual student screening this year.

“This is the largest 4K class we’ve had in a while,” she said.

Edgar School District financial woes trace back to declining enrollment. The district, which has 563 full-time students, has lost 100 students over the past decade. Under state revenue caps, the district loses spending authority with the loss of every pupil.

In other school board news:

_ The school board approved a 2020-21 school calendar that includes a spring break prior to Easter with the last day of school for students on June 3. Teachers will work a half-day on June 4.

_ Board members voted to table action on hiring spring coaches after board member Lewis requested a closed session meeting to discuss the qualifications of coaches selected for girls softball. “We need help in the softball program,” he said.

_ School principals presented 2019-20 fall and winter standardized test score results. Elementary school principal Witt said second through fifth graders in reading, language arts and math scored above national norms (except for fifth grade math, where there was a tie), although the students mostly did not keep up with national growth norms in the subject areas. High school and middle school principal Tom McCarty said seventh and eighth graders scored above national norms in the subject areas, but sixth graders lagged national norms in reading and math during the winter, tying the national norms in fall.

McCarty reported a 93.8 percent attendance average in grades 6-12 in January. He said grades 6-12 students had three suspensions during the first quarter of the school year, four during the second quarter.

_ School district administrator Dr. Cari Guden noted that this year the district had 91 students who opted in as open enrollment students into Edgar Public Schools, while 54 students opted out. “This was a very positive number for Edgar,” she said.