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District's suggestions make Senate budget

June 18, 2009

State senators last night approved their version of the state's 2009-11 state budget, which included provisions to protect school districts and taxpayers suggested by the Wauwatosa School Board.

State Sen. Jim Sullivan on Tuesday negotiated provisions into the 2009-11 state budget that would protect school districts from being forced to overspend as a result of union negotiations.

With the planned July 2010 removal of the qualified economic offer, which prevents teachers unions from seeking arbitration if they are offered a salary and benefit package increase of at least 3.8 percent, Wauwatosa officials feared arbitrators could order districts to borrow short term to fund pay raises.

Sullivan, a Wauwatosa Democrat, said he answered these concerns by adding language to the state budget that would force arbitrators to consider a district's economic condition and revenue cap when settling union contracts. The proposal also would exempt districts' fund balances from being used to pay for settlements.

The provisions were based on a recent recommendation from the Wauwatosa School Board, though board members and district administrators initially asked for more stringent rules that would have frozen school districts' short-term borrowing at current levels. Sullivan said he disagreed with that part of the initial recommendation because it was too absolute.

Formal action on the state budget is expected Tuesday. For a look at the final version of the Senate's budget, visit http://insession/insessiondocs/docs/AB75-SSA1.pdf.

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