Phill Klamm with State Representative Tyler August and State Senator Steve Nass

While the referendum for funding for the school district did not pass in early April, Phill Klamm is keeping a positive attitude as he leads changes moving ahead.

"Our community loves our school," said Klamm, the district administrator for Walworth Jt. School District #1. "Very few people want to pay more in taxes. I think that (with) the high level of inflation in April, our community members were unwilling to pay more in school tax.

"What we really need people to see moving forward is that our school referendum is about supporting our students. Our students need our community's help to have a high-quality education."

Currently, Walworth has reduced eight positions for the next school.

"This will likely continue to ebb and flow based on budget numbers and staff members," said Klamm. "It will undoubtedly impact our service to our students, families and community. Our staff will continue to work hard and give all they have to minimize any negative impacts on students.

"Our staff will be asked to do far more than they have before and it will be very challenging to do all we can with far fewer resources. There are numerous changes that are taking place. We have reduced many programs already and are continuing to look at our District Goals to see what we can accomplish next year."

The budget reductions have been varied, according to Klamm.  He said they have included professional positions, aide positions, a service position, program reductions, building reductions and so on.

"It will continue to be fluid based on how the end of the (school) year goes and what other staffing changes occur,' said Klamm.

Anne Chapman, the research director for the Wisconsin Association of School Business Officials, said in a video that state aid has been capped for schools since 1993-94 and that frugal school districts became locked in at lower rates. Many of those districts are rural ones.

"This has absolutely impacted Walworth in a negative way," said Klamm. "Walworth has always been fiscally conservative with spending and taxes; unfortunately when the state did that in 1993-94, it penalized Walworth while leaving the high-spending districts at increased rates.

 "Since 1993-94, other districts continue to significantly outspend Walworth in per-pupil spending. As a district, we have always done the best we can with what we have and now we do not have enough to support what our students need. I have shared this information with both Rep. Tyler August and Sen. Steve Nass and asked for their assistance.

Has Klamm noticed any impact yet while meeting with state political representatives?

He said he is grateful for August and Nass finding time in their schedules to visit Walworth and meet with him.

"Our meetings have been very positive and they have shown genuine concern for our situation and have appreciated the information I have shared with them," said Klamm. "I  am hopeful that these two relationships will continue to grow and we can work together. I believe that the answer to the funding question is that we need our community to approve an operational referendum."

On April 4, residents voted down an operational referendum that would have provided the district with funding, including $1.4 million for 2023-24, $1.6 million for 2024-25, and $1.8 million for 2025-26. The projected property tax impact was to be $253.07 (in year one), $275.44 (year two) and $295.12 (year three) annually for every $100,000 of assessed property value.

The public hears about funding going to schools, but Wisconsin's tax burden is kept among the lowest, according to WASBO. Klamm was asked how the message can get to the general public.

"We will continue to communicate with our stakeholders through our Website, social media, and letters to our community," he said. "We are hoping that people will realize that our kids really need financial assistance to support their education."

District Administrator Phill Klamm with State Representative Tyler August

District Administrator Phill Klamm with State Senator Steve Nass