The proposed state budget by Gov. Scott Walker will provide some relief for the Wauwatosa School District.
Walker's budget proposal calls for an additional $649 million in state money for public and private schools for each of the next two years. John Mack, Wauwatosa School District director of business services, said he is appreciative for the additional money from the state, but adds that it will not be enough to cover the district's aging buildings and maintenance.
"What Walker has put in the budget he should be lauded for," Mack said. "The $200-plus (per pupil) would be outstanding for Wauwatosa School District."
Maintenance still a concern
Mack said this money does not assist the district with costs associated with maintaining the existing buildings or building new structures necessary for the district to keep up a high quality of education for the students.
"It's not a long-term solution. It doesn't give us enough operating revenue to make the necessary changes in the classroom," Mack said. "It's enough to give us operational dollars in the short term."
The additional money for the schools — $209 per pupil for the Wauwatosa district — is contingent on the schools in the state covering at most 88 percent of the health care costs for each district's employees. According to Wauwatosa School Superintendent Phil Ertl, his district has been paying 86 percent of the staff's health care costs and therefore is already in compliance.
"To give us any kind of increase is appreciated," Ertl said. "It will allow us to continue to operate in an effective manner."
Alderman Dennis McBride said he believes groups like Support Our Schools and other advocacy organizations helped the governor and other elected officials make a decision to add more school funding to the budget. He added that numerous referendums passed recently by school districts around the state for infrastructure additions also may have helped in the effort to secure additional school aid from the state.
"Governor Walker responded to the groundswell of support for public education," McBride said. "If we had not started advocating in 2015, this budget would not have been favorable for public schools."
McBride said the increased aid is still not enough relief for rural and urban districts alike.
"We are all grateful the governor is aware that schools need more funds," McBride said. "Whether by intent or not this proposal still causes inequities."
Feb. 16 the district held a public informational meeting at the Fisher Building to keep Wauwatosa residents informed of the district's budget and the effects of the proposed state budget on Wauwatosa. School board president Mike Meier said the additional money will benefit the district and the attached health care requirement is also a positive.
"The proposals are very helpful for public education in Wauwatosa," Meier said. "The proposal encourages efficient purchase of health care and Tosa has more than met the spirit of the requirement."
At their Feb. 13 meeting school board members discussed a district facilities study that is currently being conducted. The district hired Plunkett Raysich Architects to look at the infrastructure and Nick Kent from the firm said they walked through every room in every building to get a start on determining what the district's needs are for infrastructure upkeep.