MILTON (WKOW) -- So many people showed up to the board of education meeting in Milton Monday night, school officials moved the meeting from a media classroom to the high school auditorium.
On the agenda, a topic all too familiar to small-town schools -- budget cuts.
"We are facing a pretty significant shortfall," said superintendent Bernard Nikolay.
Milton is facing an $850,000 gap for the 2010-2011 school year.
The financial hole comes at a time when the cost of education is rising, but revenues are plummeting.
Milton, like all Wisconsin schools, is receiving less money from the state, and less money from the community as property values remain stagnant.
For most of the last decade, Milton school district enjoyed increased enrollment and revenues.
Enrollment peaked in 2007 at 3,319 students.
But then the General Motors plant in neighboring Janesville idled in 2008, and closed in 2009, causing enrollment to drop for the first time since 1999.
The district saved $1 million last year thru efficiencies and minor cuts, but Nikolay said the next round of budget cuts will be deeply felt by the community.
"Most of the things on our list we would absolutely love to keep, but we have to weigh programs and services we offer with the realities we're facing," Nikolay said.
Possible cuts include ten teachers, four staff members, middle school sports, after school programs, and closing an entire school.
Consolidated Elementary is a rural school, located southwest of Milton. About 90 students attend there, far fewer than the 300 or so students at other schools. Closing it would mean a longer commute for some students.
"They would be traveling on the bus a lot longer in the morning, coming home in the evenings," said Amy Holden, who has three children in the district, and one who will start kindergarten next fall.
But parents say transportation isn't the only issue.
Tina Keller has two students in Milton schools. She worries that closing Consolidated Elementary would change their learning experience.
"We're a small community but we're really effective," Keller said. "The teachers know our kids, they know their strengths and weaknesses. They can take that, build a foundation, and know how to teach them."
Closing the school would save nearly $600,000.
The board didn't take any action Monday. Decisions will come at a later board meeting.
Rock County referenda haven't been very successful recently, and the Milton superintendent says they probably won't ask voters to raise taxes.
Milton's budget for 2009-2010 was about $34 million.