The ‘$750,000 Hole’ in Phillips, Wisconsin

The good people of Phillips, Wisconsin, will spend more local money on their schools next year, but will have much less money overall because of cuts in federal and state spending. The only thing that made the local story bearable was a visit to Bonnie's Diner.

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Whenever we stop in a town, we pick up the local paper. We were in Phillips, Wisconsin, a few weeks ago and so, of course, we bought the latest issue of The Bee.

The Bee has been published in Phillips since 1884. Phillips is in the middle of the state, but pretty far north. This is deer-hunting territory, snowmobile land in the winter. It was summer, so there was a muskie tournament that began the next day. 

We bought The Bee and settled in to Bonnie’s Diner for breakfast. (More on Bonnie’s in a minute.)

The lead story in The Bee was about a “$750,000 hole” in the local school budget. The deficit wasn’t of the local school board’s making, according to reporter Eric Knudson. The Phillips school budget was being ripped to shreds by state and federal cuts.

Local taxpayers, in fact, were increasing their investment in the schools. Revenues from Phillips were to rise more than $200,000 next year.

But the state’s portion of the Phillips budget was being cut by $463,000. And the federal part of the budget was being slashed by $211,000. 

The board had cut its budget the year before, and will only be spending $5,000 more on instruction next year. But when it looked at this year’s bottom line, it had revenues of $8.477 million and expenditures of $9.2 million. The board needs to cut 8.5 percent of the school budget.

Knudson then wrote:

Board chairman Darin Baratka expressed his exasperation when he said, “after all the cuts we made and we are still $750,000 in the hole?” He looked around the room, shrugged his shoulders and said, “I am open to suggestions, really…if anyone has any suggestions I am open to them.”

Phillips, Wisconsin, is facing a budget crisis in its local schools because of cuts in state and federal budgets. Local people pay more, but because of the politics of budget cutting in Wisconsin and in Congress, there will be less money for local education. And local school officials are flummoxed about how to handle this latest short-fall.

True in Phillips and true, we surmise, across much of rural America.

The only thing that made this sad story the least bit palatable was the fantastic breakfast at Bonnie’s, a diner on the main street (Highway 13) running through Phillips. The food was good, but what made Bonnie’s special was the feel of the place. (Our experience was seconded by this food blogger.) The place oozed friendly. You could spend the morning there talking to folks — and it appeared that a good number of people do just that.

We even saw an entire family reading a newspaper! One of those black-ink-on-paper newspapers you all have probably heard about. 

Mom and Dad had their sections. And their son didn’t have his nose in an iPhone. He was reading the comics. 

We had the breakfast usual (eggs, bacon and, since it’s Wisconsin, real butter). We’re told that Bonnie’s is known for its pies, apple especially. See the photo below.

[img:wisconsin-apple-pie.jpeg]

 

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