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Merrill Area Public Schools face more than $2 million in cuts after second failed referendum

WAOW Television

The Merrill Area Public Schools tried unsuccessfully for the second time to pass an operational referendum on Tuesday.

Without additional funding, Superintendent Shannon Murray says the district faces more than $2 million in cuts.

“I start my day twice a week at a school building,” he says. “You see these little kids walking into school and sitting in their classrooms. Next year, there’s going to be a lot more of them packed into a classroom and there’s going to be fewer teachers. And I wonder, in the long term, what opportunities will be there for them when they hit the middle school or the high school?”

Murray says Merrill Area Public Schools rely on operational referendums because they receive little funding from the state.

“We’re in the pool of school districts that get the lowest amount (of state funding),” he explains. “So it’s kind of like we get a double impact. One is that we’re at the low revenue ceiling limit, and with the failed referendum, we have a couple things going on that will impact us at the same time.”

On top of that, the state has not raised revenue limits for schools in years, despite current levels of inflation.

“We’re in an unfortunate position where our choices are cut, cut, cut, cut, cut every year or try to find alternative revenue sources, and in Wisconsin, that means referendum,” Murray says.

Because Merrill’s referendum failed, Murray is now figuring out what to cut next school year.

“We will take a look at everything from extracurriculars to busing to administration to aids to you name it,” he says. “Everything is going to be on the table.”

He will present a budget to the school board later in the year, but no matter what, he says it will limit opportunities for students.

Erin Gottsacker worked at WXPR as a Morning Edition host and reporter from December 2020 to January 2023. During her time at the station, Erin reported on the issues that matter most in the Northwoods.
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