Wisconsin’s state legislature has yet to pass a budget for this year and those hang ups have left school districts up in the air.

There are some important provisions in the budget that districts need to know before they can confidently pass their own budgets.

The state has offered the idea of a per pupil increase to school funding that would help a lot of smaller districts, but there’s also a suggestion to make school districts pay 12 percent of health insurance premiums.

“Hopefully the per pupil increase stays,” Melrose-Mindoro superintendent Del DeBerg said. “It could change overnight though.”

DeBerg has presented a rough budget in the past few school board meetings, but stresses it isn’t final until they know what help they will get from the state.

Shelly Severson, the superintendent for the Black River Falls School District, is operating with a similar mindset in hand as the school prepares to bring students back in.

“Budget years really complicate things for us,” Severson said.

For per pupil aid, the recommendation is to increase it from $250 to $450 per student and that extra $200 could mean big things for school districts.

Provisions for transportation aid are also included in the bill which would bolster the more rural schools throughout the state and in Jackson County.

There are a number of other suggestions like mental health initiatives, early college credit and teacher development programs that are important for school districts to know and have an idea of what they’re working with.

“We’re already operating so it’s a challenge,” DeBerg said.

That is the challenge some school districts have been presented with, heading into the school year unsure of what their total operating budget will be.

“School finances have to be done in July so we’re already operating under the budget,” Severson said.

DeBerg said he’s been in contact with the local representatives to express his support for some recommendations and to keep an eye out as to what’s happening.

Mel-Min also keeps in touch with a school administration lobbyist who has been keeping the school updated.

“We are ready for any changes to the budget,” DeBerg said. “No matter what happens we’ll provide a top notch education to the students.”

BRF has set itself up similarly to weather any storm the budget may present to the school, Severson said they have a safety net in place for any drastic changes.

“We took a pretty conservative view and we have that safety net to get us through this year, but that would leave us with some tough conversations next year,” Severson said.

If school districts were to see a dramatic drop in funding, it would force the BRF school board to consider some difficult cuts.

Severson and DeBerg are both confident their school is ready for any changes, but definite answers would be appreciated.

“Things are definitely worse when the state is late and the wait continues to lengthen,” Severson said.

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Stephen Knoll is a reporter for Jackson County Chronicle. Contact him at 715-284-0085.

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