School Budgets Awaiting Final State Numbers

Official enrollment figures are one of the missing pieces

Some annual school-district meetings have already occurred, but none of the Door County districts will finalize their budgets until after Oct. 15, when the state completes its annual calculations, including enrollment totals.

Residents saw preliminary budgets for Gibraltar and Southern Door during their annual meetings in September, but Washington Island and Sevastopol delayed their annual meetings until October. Sturgeon Bay, which is statutorily a different type of district than the others, is not required to hold an annual meeting. 

Residents who attend the annual meetings may vote on all matters on the annual-meeting agenda. 

Although he won’t release all of the budget figures until October and he did not know precisely how enrollment changes would affect state revenue, Sevastopol Superintendent Kyle Luedtke said he was certain of one thing.

“What will affect school funding is the increase per pupil does not keep up with the current rate of inflation,” he said. “We have to fuel our buses, heat our building and everything else.”

Sevastopol had an unofficial count of 541 students on the third Friday of September. The district benefits more than some of its neighbors from state rules that allow out-of-district students to cross boundaries. Business manager Karl Volkmann said the district had open-enrollment “in” of 156 students and “out” at 97 as of the third Friday in September. 

“The enrollment numbers won’t affect our school funding too much,” Luedtke said. “The state operates on a three-year rolling average. In 2021, we had 538, and in 2020, we had 537. So we are steady.” 

Gibraltar will finalize numbers after receiving official information from the state in October, but as of late September, the district anticipated $14.77 million in revenue and almost $14.3 million in district expenditures. During the annual meeting, following a presentation by board member Jeremy Schwab, members of the public made an advisory vote to approve a budget of $14,288,423. More than 93% of the revenue, or $13.6 million, would come from local property owners.

Area superintendents note that year-to-year increases in the Third Friday Enrollment figure don’t affect some Door County schools as much as many other districts throughout the state.

“Property-wealthy” districts such as Sevastopol and Gibraltar in vacation-home-filled northern Door County draw a huge proportion of their funds from local taxpayers. Still, enrollment figures do play a role, and the Gibraltar district saw a slight increase in overall enrollment this year.

“We should be at, plus or minus two or three students, around 550,” said new Superintendent Brett Stousland. “Last year we were at about 524.”  The majority of Gibraltar’s enrollment uptick comes from the district adding 4-year-old kindergarten this year, with 37 students in 4K.

The district’s three-year average is increasing to 526, Stousland said, which doesn’t sound like much, but it’s a step in the right direction, he said during the annual meeting. On spending per pupil, Gibraltar has about “$25,000 behind each student,” he said – one of the highest amounts of spending per pupil in the state. While adding two students won’t result in a massive state-funding increase for Gibraltar, it further increases the district’s funding cap.

Stousland said enrollment is bound to fluctuate for several years because a couple of Gibraltar elementary classes have fewer than 30 students. The ninth grade is the largest, with 52 students. The district also expects to gain a net five students through open enrollment: 30 enrolled in, and 25 enrolled out. 

When Southern Door residents voted to approve a preliminary budget in September, Superintendent Chris Peterson let them know the district gained nine students above the 2021-22 enrollment. The district saw a large decrease in state funds last year after an inordinately large senior class graduated in 2021, adversely affecting the three-year rolling enrollment average.

“The nine help reduce the amount of a decrease from last year,” Peterson said.

Voters at the annual meeting approved a Southern Door preliminary general-fund budget that projected just over $15.4 million in revenue and just under $15.2 million in expenditures. 

In Sturgeon Bay, Superintendent Dan Tjernagel said he did not have official open-enrollment totals yet and that he expected the district’s enrollment would increase by about a dozen students. He said typically that would mean an increase in state funding, but he thinks there’s a chance the state will decide to reduce or only slightly increase funds because districtwide (and statewide) taxable property values increased by so much from one year to the next.