Green Bay schools face $36 million budget shortfall

A number of things led to the shortfall, including the pandemic, inflation, and declining student enrollment
Published: Aug. 16, 2022 at 6:18 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 16, 2022 at 10:21 PM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - The Green Bay Area Public School District is cutting staff as it faces a $36 million budget shortfall in the next two years. The district says it’s taking action now to get in front of it.

“We have reduced about 10 administrative positions at the district office and out in some of the buildings, and that has saved us about $1.2 million going forward,” Chief Financial Officer Angela Roble said, “but what that does is create a cost as well.”

Officials say their number-one priority is to make sure student education isn’t disrupted.

“The goal of the district is to create a good experience for all of our students and give them the best education that we can, so that’s why we are looking at over the next two years, looking at everything we can do to least impact our students and their learning,” Roble said.

The district says a combination of things led to the fiscal crisis, including the pandemic, inflation and declining student enrollment.

About two-thirds of a school district’s state funding is tied to enrollment. According to the district, it’s experienced a steady decline in enrollment since 2016. But at the same time, the school district has increased staff. Officials say around 80 percent of its budget is staff salary and benefits.

GBAPS has relied on federal COVID relief funds. Those funds dry up in September 2024, and that’s the year the district faces the $36 million budget hole, forcing the district to make drastic cuts.

The covid-19 funding is known as the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, or ESSER.

The district has relied on ESSER funds for its operations, especially since the legislature didn’t approve any new funding increases adjusted for inflation in its biennial budget.

“Because they did not give us any additional revenue to put in the classroom, we’re having to use that money to continue doing what we need to do for our students,” Sara Noah, executive director of finance for the school district, said.

According to a plan posted on the district’s website, most of its ESSER funds are going towards teachers.

Green Bay school administrators are developing some creative ways to address the budget shortfall, but there is concern the cuts to could impact the district’s efficiency.

“That affects the departments, it affects the buildings. Where we don’t backfill those individuals, the responsibilities either get pushed off to the building, get pushed on to the departments, other employees that are there, or the work doesn’t get done,” Roble said.

The Green Bay Schools Board of Education will meet in October to vote on the district’s preliminary budget. You can read a copy of that budget here:$file/Prelim%20Budget%20%20Book.pdf

The school district ha seen a steady decline in student enrollment at the same time it was increasing staff

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