Unexpected state aid fitting reward for EL-G

IT’S ALWAYS NICE TO get some unexpected money. That’s true whether you’re doing the family budget or budgeting for a school district.

That fortunate circumstance befell the Elkhart Lake-Glenbeulah School District this summer.

As District Superintendent Ann Buechel- Haack informed the School Board at their August meeting, the district qualified for sparsity aid from the state of Wisconsin for the first time this school year.

It’s not a huge amount – only $154,800, or $300 per student – but it’s still money that the district has never had to work with in the past.

The sparsity aid was created eight years ago by the state as one of the recommendations from a Department of Public Instruction study group looking at ways to level the playing field for smaller school districts across the state.

In the past, eligibility was determined using a three-part formula that took into a size a district’s total enrollment, the number of students per square mile and average income in the district.

On the first two criteria, Elkhart Lake-Glenbeulah qualified, but the third – average income – tripped the district up and left them out of the equation.

That is, until the state Legislature removed that last measuring stick when it approved the latest biennial state budget.

That made the district eligible for the aid for the first time and resulted in another $154,800 the district had not expected.

Against an annual general fund budget of $6.5 million and a total operating budget of $7.7 million, that’s not really a lot, maybe 2 percent of the total budget – or about two cents on the dollar.

But in these days of tight budgets, spending controls and tax caps, even a penny or two can go a long way, especially in a district like Elkhart Lake-Glenbeulah.

The district has a long history and a strong record of fiscal responsibility and wise stewardship of the taxpayer’s dollars.

That’s been despite more than a few handicaps, not the least of which is the district’s size and geographic spread.

Despite those factors, Elkhart Lake-Glenbeulah has done an admirable job of keeping pace with the changing face and technology of education while providing its students with the best possible education and the greatest number of academic choices possible.

The district has also done a remarkable job of meeting long-term expenses and needs through careful budgeting and referenda to meet specific needs.

All this has been accomplished while also keeping the district’s debt load low and assiduously paying off existing debt before incurring new debt, to the benefit of the district, its students and most importantly its taxpayers.

The district has also enjoyed enthusiastic and whole-hearted support from the community, both of referenda when they have been presented and for programs and projects above and beyond the everyday.

The latest example of the latter opened this fall – the brand-new, state-of-the-art greenhouse facility at the high school, built without impacting or increasing the property tax levy or tax rate.

All in all, the Elkhart Lake-Glenbeulah School District has an unmatchable record for providing quality education efficiently and effectively. Perhaps the few pennies worth of sparsity aid could be considered a recognition of that fine record.

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