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What the New State Budget Means for Northwoods Schools

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Gov. Tony Evers signed the state’s new two-year budget into law two weeks ago.

Although it included $2 billion in tax cuts, not everyone is happy with the final product.

“To tell you the truth, I’m very, very disappointed in our legislators,” says Terry Reynolds, Tomahawk School District’s superintendent.

It’s a sentiment many local educators in the Northwoods echo.

The new state budget allocates $128 million in additional funding for public schools. That's far short of the $1.6 billion Gov. Evers proposed.

However, Republican lawmakers say it’s enough because schools are receiving $2.6 billion in federal COVID relief aid.

The problem, many local school districts say, is they’ve already spent those COVID relief funds on COVID relief.

“We already used our grants to expand Crescent elementary school to allow for social distancing,” Bob Thom, director of business services for the Rhinelander School District, says. “We had already committed all the money, so we can’t use it now for our operational funding.”

Thom says the Rhinelander School District will survive the next two years without cutting programs because the community has supported the school’s past three referendums.

But other public schools aren’t in that position.

The School District of Tomahawk's referendum was narrowly defeated in the spring. 

Superintendent Reynolds says, as a result, the school cut five teaching positions and the German program.

Without additional state funding, he says the district will have to deficit spend.

“It’ll just be more that we have to spend from fund balance which we can’t afford to be doing too long,” he says. “We’ll try to make ends meet this year.”

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