Three Door County school districts received a portion of the $25 million available from the state in sparsity aid payments this year. A new proposal from State Superintendent and gubernatorial candidate Tony Evers could bring Southern Door into the 145 school districts that receive such payments.
Sparsity aid is a categorical aid that goes toward districts with fewer than 745 students and a density of less than 10 students per square mile. Eligible districts receive $400 per student.
The three districts in Door County receiving payments this year are Gibraltar Area ($208,800), Sevastopol ($226,400) and Washington ($28,800).
“Sparsity aid helps small school districts keep the lights on, the buses running, and staff employed,” said Evers in a statement. “Rural school districts face combined challenges of having a sparse student population spread over a large geographic area, fixed costs that don’t go down with declining enrollment, and resident families of modest means that makes referenda to raise local property taxes extremely difficult.”
Southern Door School District, which is ineligible for sparsity aid due to enrollment of 1,032 in the last school year, is all too familiar with the referendum process.
An April 2017 referendum failed by 24 votes. This November, district residents will vote on two other referenda; a $6.3 million request for campus-wide structural improvements and a $345,000 request for basic operations of the school.
But an expansion of the sparsity aid program requested in Evers’ 2019-21 budget proposal would bring Southern Door into the fold.
Evers, who may be the one approving his own request should he win the race for governor, wants to provide sparsity aid to all districts with fewer than ten students per square mile regardless of enrollment. The budget request would require an additional $9.79 million in sparsity aid, bringing the program total to $70 million. Using current enrollment and aid numbers, that would mean $412,800 going to Southern Door.
According to Southern Door Business Manager Mark Logan, the district has slightly more than five students per square mile.
“As always, we are hopeful the State continues to review the funding that is provided to rural districts like Southern Door,” Logan said in an email.
The proposal will be considered for the 2019-21 budget, which is expected to be signed by July 1, 2019.