After each biennial state budget has been adopted, we have provided a discussion of items contained within that budget that is of interest to our clients. In some previous budget cycles, the budget has contained significant policy components along with financial appropriations, in some instances requiring a series of articles to discuss those updates.
The most recent budget, signed into law on July 5, 2023, does not contain significant policy related items. It is, instead, principally focused on appropriations to fund the government through June 30, 2025. However, we have identified the following budget bill provisions that are worth separate mention.
School Revenue Limit Increases Through 2425
Governor Tony Evers used his executive veto authority to establish a permanent baseline increase each year in school district revenue limits. Although not technically permanent, the increases are set currently through the year 2425, which can always be changed by subsequent legislative action and may be subject to other legal battles.
In Wisconsin, school districts are partially funded by the federal government, the state, and by property taxes at the local level. A school district’s “revenue limit” represents the maximum total amount each district can raise through state general aid and property tax for the General, Non-Referendum Debt and Capital Expansion Funds. A district’s revenue limit is determined by a calculation provided under Chapter 121 of the Wisconsin Statutes.
One component of the revenue limit calculation is a per pupil cost calculation that typically is increased (or held steady) for each of the two years in the biennial budget. The budget passed by the state legislature provided for a $325 per year increase in the per pupil calculation “in the 2023-24 school year and the 2024-25 school year”. The Governor’s veto authority allows him to delete single words, letters, or numbers, which he did to change the above to “in the 2023-2425 school year”. The effect of which has so far been described as securing a guaranteed per pupil increase each year through 2425.
This approach is reminiscent of Governor Walker’s use of the veto pen in the 2017-2019 Biennial budget in which he changed the energy performance contracting moratorium to end December 3018 instead of December 31, 2018 (crossing out the 1 and 2).
WisconsinEye Endowment Fund
WisconsinEye is an independent nonprofit government broadcasting organization, operating much like C-SPAN at the national level. The 2023-2025 Biennial Budget includes the authority for the Department of Administration to provide an endowment fund for its continued civic purpose.
The authority to set up the endowment and for WisconsinEye to access funds is conditioned upon WisconsinEye maintaining free public access to its resources, including recorded content of public meetings.
Education and Learning Grant Changes
The Universal Service Fund is a fund administered by the Public Service Commission and provides grants to increase Wisconsin residents’ access to telecommunication services. The budget prescribes Wisconsin Library Services, Inc. (now operating under the name “WiLS”) as the beneficiary of this grant. WiLS is a non-profit membership organization that facilitates projects and services to advance library services in the state of Wisconsin. Most of its members are libraries, but they also work with cultural institutions, government agencies, and other non-profits to develop partnerships and projects. This grant will work to support the digitization of historic materials in public libraries throughout the state.
The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction currently administers a grant program to provide grants to school boards and operators of charter schools for the purpose of collaborating with mental health providers to provide mental health services to pupils. The Budget includes a statutory scheme that replaces some discretion the Department of Public Instruction had to administer this grant program.
Finally, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction also administers a grant program to provide eligible robotics competition teams with financial assistance. The budget changed the maximum amount each eligible team may receive from $5,000 to $6,000 per school year.
These budget changes serve as an important reminder that districts are encouraged to apply for eligible grants through the Department of Public Instruction’s “WISEgrants” portal. State and federal funding opportunities are constantly changing and may provide your district with helpful aid.
The 2023-2025 biennial budget provides a welcome increase in per pupil funding for school districts and includes that funding, for the time being, for the next 400 hundred years. Whether that stands or not remains to be seen, but it is a reminder that even in a time of divided government (i.e. Republican controlled legislature and Democrat Governor) the Governor’s veto power is a powerful one in Wisconsin. This budget also serves as a reminder that the budget process in an environment of divided government also results in far fewer policy initiatives finding their way into the budget legislation.
For questions regarding this article, please contact the author,
or your Renning, Lewis & Lacy attorney.
Geoffrey A. Lacy
firstname.lastname@example.org | 920.283.0704
This article was co-authored by Law Clerk Bennett Thering, Rising 3L at the University of Wisconsin Law School
Our legal updates provide general information only and are not intended to provide legal advice or create an attorney-client relationship.