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Report says benefits took brunt of school cuts

by
School budget graphic.
School budget graphic.

MADISON (WRN)  A study from the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance shows many public school districts used cuts in benefits to cover most of the nearly $451 million in revenue limits imposed under the last state budget. Those limits were part of about $800 million in cuts to state aids included in the biennial state budget.

Alliance President Todd Berry says many districts saved about $240 million through provisions in Governor Walker’s controversial collective bargaining law, which allowed them to make employees contribute more to their retirement benefits. Districts also saved about $91 million by reducing their share of employee health insurance costs.

Some districts were unable to take full advantage of the changes though, either because school officials chose to renegotiate contracts with unions or because existing contracts prevented them from making any changes. Berry says many of those were forced to look at other areas, such as staff reductions or program cuts, to make up for lost revenue.

Districts are not in the clear though. Berry admits that school officials who took advantage of the Act 10 changes will likely be unable to realize those kinds of savings again in the future. If the next biennial budget again calls for deep cuts to public education, he says many of them could be facing difficult choices and financial problems.

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