As area school district administrators prepare budgets for the 2020-’21 school year, they will have to do so with less general state aid than previous years.

According to a press release from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) which was issued on July 1, general state aid is estimated to be cut for the Three Lakes, Northland Pines and Phelps school districts. 

The three school districts are considered low-aid districts due to high property values and low tax rates. 

The Three Lakes School District is being hit the hardest, with a 51.63% general state aid reduction from the previous year. During the 2019-’20 school year, Three Lakes received $23,060. With an $11,905 reduction in aid, the school district is only receiving $11,155 this year. 

Despite such a significant drop in funding, Three Lakes District Administrator Teri Maney stated, “The decrease was expected.”

Maney expressed that the school’s low general aid from the DPI combined with “a one-time adjustment to (the school district’s) per-pupil count quite easily resulted in the 51.63% drop.” 

“As a low-aided, high property value district, we depend on referendums to supplement our operating costs as is the case with several of our neighboring districts,” Maney concluded. 

The Northland Pines school district saw a 15.09% reduction in general state aid, receiving $24,935 in aid compared to $29,367 the previous year. 

“The reality is Northland Pines general aid will be $0 in a few years,” said Northland Pines District Administrator Scott Foster. 

“We have relied on the local taxpayers to support our schools through the levy and additionally through operating referendums.”

Foster continued by adding that general state aid has always been small, but nonetheless, “every dollar counts and less aid means (the school district) has fewer resources to support student learning.”

The final district to receive a cut in general state aid was Phelps. In 2019-’20, Phelps received $3,640. This number was reduced by 15.08% for the 2020-’21 school year, which amounts to receiving $3,091.

Despite the losses in area school districts’ general aid from the state, a majority of school districts in Wisconsin saw an increase in funding, according to the DPI.

Of the 421 general state aid recipients, 302 school districts saw an increase in aid, 114 saw a decrease in aid and five schools saw no change in aid. 

All in all, in spite of the losses for area school districts, school administrators remain positive. 

“It would be nice to see a day where our tax dollars sent downstate could return in a higher dollar amount to support North Woods schools. (But) as a district, we will continue to work as advocates for our taxpayers and students in Madison and Washington D.C.,” shared Foster.