District leaders in Onalaska feel state aid is lagging

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In late August, Republican candidate for the 94th Assembly District seat Julian Bradley claimed in an interview with News 8 that education funding had increased recently.

“People like to talk about the cuts, but we’ve actually seen increases.” Bradley said. “The La Crosse School District, the Onalaska School District, West Salem, Melrose-Mindoro, we’ve seen increases across the board in funding in all of those areas, I want to make sure those continue to happen.”

When The Observatory contacted Bradley, he clarified that he was referring specifically to changes in state general aid between the 2015-16 school year and the current school year. The Observatory checked the claim not only in that span of time, but also over the last six years, a time period Steve Doyle, incumbent Democratic representative, cited in the same news clip when he argued for the need to increase state funding. The Observatory found that out of the four school districts Bradley mentioned, three had funding increases in the past year and two had increases over the last six years.

One of the districts that has seen an increase over both the last year and the last six years has been the School District of Onalaska. However, Superintendent Fran Finco told The Observatory in an email that since the passing of Act 10 in 2011, his district has taken notable cuts.

“That year we had to cut $1.2 million out of our budget and things have not been right since,” Finco said.

According to the Onalaska District Director of Finance and Business Services Kent Ellickson, although the district will see an increase in state funding this upcoming year, state revenue limits have forced taxpayers to take on a larger burden.

Ellickson noted that while his district saw an increase from last year to this, funding is still down in comparison to 2010-11.

“This means the support has shifted from the state to the local taxpayer,” said Ellickson.

Both Finco and Ellickson said that if it hadn’t been for community support, the state of their district would look very different.

“As a district, we are fortunate to have a community that supports providing resources beyond the state-imposed revenue limits through support of two five-year operational referendums,” Ellickson said.

Finco said he hopes that the state takes a longer look at cost of living before determining state aid.

What I would hope the state (does) is grant a cost of living increase to every school district each year so we can keep up with the increased costs of doing business.”

Email interview with Fran Finco, Oct. 4, 2016
Email interview with Kent Ellickson, Oct. 4, 2016

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