Madison Schools Facing $12.4 Million Deficit

Stark reality for the Madison School District for next school year.

Superintendent Dan Nerad won’t make his preliminary budget recommendations until April 1, but in its first look at the 2012-13 school budget, the district is projecting a $12.4 million deficit based on current budget trends.

Factoring in rising insurance and fuel costs, the district projects general fund spending of $319.7 million, up from $310.9 million this year. Revenues are projected to be $307.3 million.

The district is looking at several options to close the gap, such as eliminating its most expensive health insurance option, renegotiating nonunion employee contracts, energy efficiency projects, refinancing debt and raising property taxes, said Erik Kass, assistant superintendent for business services.

But the district doesn’t want to do what other districts around the state have done – have employees contribute more to their health insurance premiums.

One way Madison expects to close its $12.4 million deficit this year is to eliminate Wisconsin Physicians Service as an insurance provider, which would save about $5 million. Madison Teachers Inc. agreed to that option as part of the current contract.

The union also agreed to pay up to 15 percent of the premium for the other three insurance options, Group Health Cooperative, Dean and Physicians Plus. But Madison didn’t exercise that option last year and might not have to this year, Kass said.

The 15 percent contribution would generate up to $7.5 million in savings, but would cost teachers up to about $900 for a single plan and $2,700 for a family plan. Most other districts around the state had employees pay more toward premiums last year.

MTI executive director John Matthews said an average teacher is already losing about $2,600 in take-home pay because of the pension contribution. Not having to contribute to health insurance premiums would be “a huge relief.”

“Many employees were forced to reduce their standard of living, many are having financial problems, some unable to afford college tuition and some are unable to qualify for mortgage to enable home purchase,” Matthews wrote in an email.

School Board President James Howard said asking employees to contribute more than what they do now would be a “double whammy” because they also are affected by property tax increases. But the board may look at ways to spread out the budget’s impact.

Why can’t employees in the Madison school district do what private sector employees have been doing during the current economic downturn?  Why should they not have to make adjustments in their standard of living and pay more?

Instead the Madison Metropolitan School District thinks it is better to raise taxes to cover the shortfall.  To not exercise options that the union agreed to is absurd.  But then again it was also absurd to agree to new contracts with the unions last year before Act 10 became law.

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Governor Walker has kept his promises

Spot on editorial by Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch.

As a mom with two small kids, I’m glad that Scott Walker is looking out for families like ours. As lieutenant governor, I see his leadership skills helping Wisconsin families like mine. It was a rare thing to cover a politician who said what he’d do and do what he said. Walker is that rare type.

He promised to reform government and put it back on the side of the people. He promised to protect taxpayers and truly balance the budget. He promised to help the people of Wisconsin create more good jobs. Walker showed his respect for the hardworking people of our state by keeping those promises.

After taking office, the governor called lawmakers in to start working on jobs. Legislators from both sides of the aisle voted for the strong ideas that have led to more good Wisconsin jobs.

After losing more than 150,000 private-sector jobs from 2007 to 2010, Wisconsin saw a net increase of 20,000 jobs in 2011; 88% of the job creators in our state now say that Wisconsin is headed in the right direction (vs. just 10% last year).

Walker helped Wisconsin balance a budget deficit without massive layoffs or tax increases. He protected important services (adding $1.2 billion to Medicaid) and ensured that more of the resources given to schools go into the classroom to help our students (his kids, like mine, attend public schools).

States such as Illinois passed tax increases and avoided tackling structural deficits. Their deficit problems got worse, forcing talk of massive layoffs and closure of state facilities. Wisconsin avoided that kind of mess because Walker was willing to make hard decisions today so our kids wouldn’t have to tomorrow.

Now, the governor has a plan and a positive outlook for the future.

Go to the source and read the rest.  It may sound cliche, but the reforms put in place by Governor Walker and the State Legislature are working.  State residents who are being honest with themselves see that.

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Ryan concerned about acceleration of ObamaCare

President Obama’s fiscal commission was tasked with trying to get deficits under control, but its proposals would dramatically accelerate the growth of the new entitlement program created by the national health care law, thus expanding America‘s future obligations, says Rep. Paul Ryan, a member of the commission and the incoming chair of the House Budget Committee.

Among the many proposals contained in the 66-page report, one of them would begin to phase out the tax exclusion for employer-based health insurance. While supporters of a free market for health care have long argued that such a step would be necessary to create a functioning market for insurance, Ryan argues that doing so with ObamaCare still intact would have disasterous ramifications. In the world of ObamaCare, Ryan explains, when employers begin to drop insurance coverage in response to the change in tax treatment, instead of going into a competitive free market, Americans will be funnelled into the government-run insurance exchanges. This would hasten the nation’s long-term slide into a single-payer health care system.

“While I’m pleased to see the need to address the exclusion in the context of the Fiscal Commission, I have serious concerns with the consequences if applied under Obamacare’s infrastructure,” Ryan wrote in a email to TAS. “Without a healthy, vibrant, competitive market for health insurance, the proposed reforms would move employees away from job-based health insurance, and end up in the government-controlled exchanges. This would dramatically increase entitlement spending as hundreds of millions of Americans would be dumped into the subsidized exchanges. It would also result in more people being forced into the new health entitlement, at a time when we have no plan to finance our existing entitlement programs.” (Source: American Spectator)

The commission has jump-started debate on a critical issue facing America.  As Rep. Ryan points out though the last thing this country needs is an acceleration of ObamaCare.  Which is why as important as the tax exclusion is now is not the time for it.  Go to the source to read Rep. Ryan’s complete statement.

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Stop the Train

Wisconsin doesn’t need a hi-speed (if you call 70 mph hi-speed) train between Madison and Milwaukee.

With a state budget deficit there are more important issues this money could be spent on.

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