Last year, Amery voters were presented with a substantial school district referendum. Parents and residents received text messages, phone calls, and mail campaigns as well as the district informational videos. This caused division among the community….All chanting the need for more room, repairs, and maintenance resulting in a $43.5 million referendum. We can agree that our district needs some major updates, but are we really running out of room?
According to the WI DPI website, over the last two decades, we’ve already lost nearly 400 students. How did our district justify needing more space (with 400 fewer students) to the tune of $43.5 million? Did the district even do a population study to determine the future needs of the Amery School District?
Surrounding districts are showing a reduced enrollment of 200-500 students in the next 5 years. We could be stuck with a huge new building and a reduction of nearly 900 students by 2028.
Here is the really big problem. Each year, the district receives anywhere between $8-10K in funding per student. That means we’ve already lost nearly $4 million dollars per year in operational expenses…every single year (400 students X $10,000).
Will our district be facing an operational cliff of $2-5 million EVERY SINGLE YEAR due to declining enrollment (500 students X $10,000)?
Amery is not the only district that’s gotten themselves in a pickle like this. Many districts throughout the state and even some in our local area are having to go to referendum annually to make payroll. The thing is Amery has already done that, remember the 2017-2018 recurring referendum for $1.9M which includes “maintaining and restoring staff positions.”
The district has continued to back its claims of full transparency, mocking community members who have raised questions or concerns for not being financially transparent, and blaming them for spreading misinformation.
What does the current budget actually look like?
Last year the district hired two additional teachers. One for kindergarten and one for third grade using ESSER III (one-time covid relief funds), to cover the salaries of these positions for the first two years. According to the Amery Free Press last year, “Doerfler said this year’s Second Grade students have shown academic need, so they would be decreasing the class sizes for the next year to offer greater resources”. How are we going to retain these positions when the funds run out? Especially when year after year we continue to have a decline in enrollment.
Is this what they’ve been doing, reducing class sizes to retain staff? According to the National Center for Education Statistics, The Amery school district student-to-teacher ratio is 13 students to every teacher.
Should there have been such a push for a referendum that included adding on, when indeed the discussion may have needed to consider efforts in downsizing? Did the individuals pushing this referendum actually do their homework? How will Amery School Board move forward and navigate these unfortunate circumstances within the limitations of the current budget, preventing the “Fiscal Cliff” that is plaquing our nation.
What will the future plans be for expanding the farm, CTE residential housing, and athletic facilities? Expenses that are not covered by state aid or the most recent referendum.
Next week as taxpayers make their way to the polls they will be once again faced with another pivotal decision for the future of our community. Will they continue to trust the guidance and direction of our school board and those of the Our Kids, Our Community, Our Future?
Or will they choose a candidate like Dell Stone with strong leadership skills, who will be pro-active, focus on our budget, do his research and work with the taxpayers to reduce debt?
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