A budget deficit is forcing residents in one Columbia County community to consider some tough options.
Lodi School District leaders laid out the financial challenges the district faces next school year in a packed meeting in the Lodi High School Auditorium on Wednesday night.
The district said it's facing a $1.6 million budget hole, and that higher taxes or teacher cuts are possible options to deal with the deficit.
The district of more than 1,600 students said a couple things brought the district's finances to this point.
Homes along Lake Wisconsin enjoy stable, high property values, but decreasing enrollment numbers has led to less state aid for the district.
Interim Superintendent Chuck Pursell said the tools highlighted in Act 10 won't help next year.
"That was a one-time fix last year," said Pursell. "And it's exacerbated because our non-recurring ($875,000) referendum is running out. So it's a doubly whammy."
As far as its options, the district could close its primary school for 4-year-old kindergarten through second grade. It could cut up to 20 teachers and staff members, saving the district $473,000, or it could go back to referendum.
"If the state would recognize that they really need to fund the local schools, I would of course support that," said parent Amy Crowder, who supports a referendum.
Karla Fust, a parent and Lodi Chamber of Commerce president, said she remembers how 2008's referendum divided the community.
"We were very close. I want to say it was a 1 percent difference last time between yes and no," Fust said. "To move forward, I'm not sure with how the economy is and how some people are struggling in all communities that a referendum would pass again."
The district said it won't bring forth a new referendum in April, but it won't rule out a possible referendum in August.
While the Lodi community tries to come together to find solutions, Pursell said other districts will face the same problems.
"I fear that we are basically dismantling the public education system of this state," Pursell said. "And it's falling on the shoulders of taxpayers."
The district said it will survey the community and speak with its employees before making a final decision.
If it comes down to cutting positions, the district said it will see who is retiring or wants to leave first, the go by seniority. The district also has a union contract until June 30 but said that will only dictate means and methods of layoffs, should there be any.