The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction released an estimate of the general school aids each public school district will receive for the 2020-21 school year.

The report shows projected large jumps in state aid for two area school systems of $12.84 percent more for the Bruce School District receiving 12.84 and 30.96 percent more for the Chetek-Weyerhaeuser School District. The Ladysmith School District is projected to receive 4.25 percent more in state aid for the coming school year.

School districts projected to receive less state aid for the new school year include the three property-rich school district of Lake Holcombe, Winter and Birchwood, all at 15.09 percent less. Flambeau School District is projected to receive 1.25 percent less in state aid for the coming year.

Ladysmith School District Administrator Laura Stunkel noted the projections at this time are estimates of what the state believes school districts might receive in the fall.

“The expenditures for 2019-2020 are down because of schools closing due to COVID-19, and we are in the preliminary stages of budget planning for this year,” Stunkel said.

Planning is more difficult because of the unknowns from the virus, according to Stunkel.

“It is way too early to predict a tax decrease,” Stunkel said. “As you know, nothing is final until October when the state aid is set for all school districts. There are a lot of moving parts from now until then.”

Estimated general school aids for 2020-21 total $4.9 billion, representing a $163.5 million (3.5 percent) increase over last year. Due to changes in aid deductions for the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program and the Milwaukee-area legacy independent charter schools, the estimated increase in payments to districts is $160.8 million. 

Of the state’s 421 school districts, 72 percent (302) are estimated to receive more general aids in 2020-21, while 27 percent of districts (114) are estimated to receive less. Five districts will have no change in aid between the 2019-20 and 2020-21 fiscal years. A district’s general aids can increase or decrease due to changes in any of the three local factors comprising Wisconsin’s general equalization aid formula — property valuation, enrollment, and shared costs — as well as a difference in funds available from the state.

The state aid projections are a required estimate that is given to every school district based on the state’s biennial budget. They show the Bruce School District receiving a 12.8 percent state aid hike for the 2020-21 school year, one of the largest percentage increases in the area providing $301,752 more in aid above the prior school year.

The estimates may change due to decisions at the state level regarding the budget, according to Bruce School District Administrator Pat Sturzl.

“School districts hope to have the final state aid amounts soon so they can finalize budgets,” Sturzl said.

The Flambeau School District is projected to receive slightly less state aid in the 2020-21 school year, about 1.25 percent decrease.

“With slightly declining enrollment, Flambeau has experienced a decrease in state aid,” Flambeau School District Administrator Erica Schley said. “Projecting that the School District of Flambeau will levy to the maximum allowable amount, as we have always done, we will see only a small increase to the tax levy.”

General school aids are the largest form of state support for public schools in the state. Wisconsin statutes require the department to publish estimated aid amounts by July 1 each year. The estimate is based on the most recent 2019-20 budget data reported by school districts to the DPI, as well as the level of funding approved in the 2019-2021 state biennial budget. Estimated amounts are subject to change because they are based on budgeted, not audited, school district data. On Oct. 15, 2020, the DPI will certify amounts for 2020-21 general school aids based on audited data and the state’s appropriation.

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