By Tracy Ouellette

SLN Staff

The East Troy School Board is considering going to referendum next year to address the district’s project operational shortfall and maintenance needs.

School District Business Manager Kathy Zwirgzdas laid out three possible scenarios for the future of the district for the board at Monday night’s meeting.

The first scenario was that the board not make any cuts to balance the budget starting next year.

“But when we run the debt models, we would have about four years of being a viable district if we didn’t make any reductions,” Zwirgzdas said. “One option is to close your eyes and ignore it, but if that’s done, in about four years, we’re in a similar position as Palmyra-Eagle was last year with closing our doors.”

She went on to explain that in the past, the East Troy School Board has approved cuts to balance the budget, which have meant some very difficult choices over the years, including less programming and staff. Cuts in benefits, salary freezes and other cost-saving measures have also been employed to balance the budget.

The second scenario Zwirgzdas laid out was the district continue making deep cuts into its operating costs to balance the budget. She said the project deficit for next year was about $800,000 and more than $600,000 the following year.

Because of declining enrollment this year, possibly because of COVID-19, next year’s budget shortfall was nearly double what the district usually sees at about $470,000 a year.

“We’re hoping to see a bounce up in enrollment after COVID, after people feel better about sending their kids to a physical building,” Zwirgzdas said, but added if those numbers don’t recover, the School District’s funding situation would look even worse.

Zwirgzdas said the loss of students to Open Enrollment in other districts is also causing issues. East Troy generally loses kids to Open Enrollment at a 2:1 ratio and that number may increase next year, Zwirgzdas said.

Cuts to meet the projected $800,000 deficit next year would be difficult for the district, Zwirgzdas said, and likely result in more programming loss and another year of salary freezes. The district froze salaries this year and Zwirgzdas said if the district can’t stay competitive with teacher and staff salaries, she was worried about losing quality staff.

The third scenario Zwirgzdas presented to the board was going to referendum again to cover the operational and maintenance costs that exceed the funding available to the district.

Pick up a copy of the Nov. 13 edition of the East Troy Times/News to learn how the School Board is proceeding.


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