Budget Brief

2019 Proposed Budget Milwaukee Public Schools

May 2018


Our annual review of the Milwaukee Public Schools proposed budget finds the district’s longstanding structural problems have intensified, creating one of the most difficult budgets in years. While newly announced adjustments may avert deep cuts to school budgets for one more year, long-term plans are needed to restructure operations and facilities in ways that would least harm classrooms.

Key findings:

  • The combination of state aids and property tax levy – which comprise 77% of MPS’ total revenues – would decline by $2.5 million next year, while federal categorical aids decrease by $6 million. Declining revenues, and related enrollment drops, have plagued MPS for years and now leave little recourse but to reduce classroom-related expenditures.
  • The proposed budget originally relied on 5% cuts to schools’ per pupil discretionary allocations as a primary strategy to eliminate a $30 million budget “hole.” Adjustments recently announced by the interim superintendent could eliminate those cuts, but perhaps only for the short term.
  • For the third straight year, the proposed budget fails to restore more than $9 million in property tax levy to the construction fund, opting instead to use those funds for school operations. The district may be justified in borrowing the money for 2019, but the need to restore the funds will add to budget challenges in future years.
  • MPS’ five-year forecast projects substantial declines in revenues for 2020 and 2021 as well, while health care increases will exacerbate annual expenditure pressures. As a result, barring an unexpected influx of new revenues from state, local, or federal sources, MPS will have little choice but to restructure operations, shed facilities, and contemplate cuts that could affect its workforce.