By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published May 19, 2017 at 9:34 AM

According to a new Public Policy Forum report, Milwaukee Public Schools again "face(s) revenue challenges and renewed expenditure pressures," which are reflected in its FY18 budget.

The PPF report, which can be downloaded here, says that the district went into its budget planning sessions with a $46 million shortfall because it made use of a one-time savings from retirement and debt payments to fund new staff positions and initiatives. This opportunity, the report says, was "fully transparent."

That savings, however, has evaporated and the money used for staff must now be returned to funding of retirement and debt.

"After two consecutive years in which the district was able to add positions and initiate new
Programs," the report notes, "the 2018 proposed budget reverts back to a more familiar budget paradigm – one in which MPS' leaders face fierce pressure to reduce positions and to shift resources from school operations to other needs.

"This reality necessitates the proposed elimination of 194 positions and an overall reduction of $31 million to school budgets."

Here are some key findings from the report, as presented in a Public Policy Forum release:

  • The budget anticipates a $15.4 million increase in per pupil aid from the State based on the Governor's recommended 2017-19 State budget. That increase is mostly offset, however, by a projected $12.9 million reduction in combined State equalization aids and local property tax levy based on aid amounts and revenue limits in the Governor's budget.
  • While the proposed budget fully restores one-time savings in retirement and capital-related debt accounts, it again includes a transfer of $9.5 million in property tax levy from the construction fund to school operations. This transfer likely will need to be restored in 2019, adding to budget challenges that year.
  • After several successive years of decline following the negotiation of a new teachers' union contract in 2010 and changes enabled by Wisconsin Act 10,MPS’ health care expenditures are projected to increase for the second consecutive year (by $4.5 million, or 4.2%). Total fringe benefits expenditures are projected to increase by $3 million (1.2%).
  • New student enrollment projections indicate that MPS will start to see an increase in students after 2018, with enrollment estimated to increase from 83,761 to 86,529 students (3.3%) by 2022. Enrollment is critical to MPS, as it is a key factor in the calculation of equalization aid from the State.
  • "Despite the cuts in positions and the reallocation of resources from school operations
    to other accounts, district officials say the impacts will be manageable, as school-related position and funding increases in the 2017 budget still exceed the reductions required in 2018. Also, the budget notes that despite the elimination of 194 positions, there will be few layoffs, as most will occur through staff turnover, retirements and vacancies.

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.