Comparative Cost Per Member

Section D of Multi-Year Edition of Basic Facts

Comparative Cost Per Member

In cooperation with the Wisconsin Association of School Business Officials Accounting Committee, the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) School Financial Services Team has developed several cost "benchmarks" that can be used for informational and general analysis purposes.

Cost measures, themselves, cannot indicate the extent or quality of a particular district's educational program. Users of this data are encouraged to pursue the reasons for cost differences between districts.

Please contact a school finance consultant should you have further questions.

Note: The Comparative Cost and Comparative Revenue calculations use data from district-submitted Annual Reports. Each year, after the Finance Team staff has completed an audit review of the submitted data, the Comparative Cost and Comparative Revenue calculations are updated with the new information. Currently, the Finance Team is reviewing the 2012-13 Annual Reports. It is anticipated the audit process will be completed in mid-Spring, 2014. The Comparative Cost and Comparative Revenue calculations will be updated at that time.


Cost can differ from one district to another and from one year to another. There may be several reasons for this variance - educational programming, pupil transportation requirements, increases or decreases in debt service expenditures, or having food and community service operations. Reliance on a single cost determination, which may not be representative for all school districts, can lead to erroneous conclusions. The following "comparable" cost measures were developed to limit or identify the effects of various factors that contribute to cost variances:

  • Total Current Educational Cost (TCEC) This measure attempts to identify overall instructional and instructional support service costs attributable to district resident students. It can generally be described as the cost of the district's General and Special Project funds, excluding transportation and facility acquisition expenditures, less inter-fund transfers and revenues for instructional services the district provides to non-resident pupils such as tuition receipts, CESA and cooperative agreements, and state inter-district integration aid.
  • Total Education Cost (TEC) This is the TCEC plus transportation, expenditures for facility acquisitions charged to the General, Special Project, and Capital Expansion (Tax Levy Financed "Sinking") funds, and debt service principal and interest.
  • Total District Cost (TDC) This is TEC plus food and community service costs. It should be noted that food and community service activities are usually funded with fees and other program revenue, requiring little or no property tax subsidy.

Over time, the computation logic used in the comparative cost calculation has been revised to more accurately reflect a true measure of education cost. The accounting methodology for the current Comparative Cost calculation, as well as those for prior years, can be found in the links below. All files are Excel.

Accounts used in calculation:


Multi-Year Comparative Cost Summary Data Files:

Summary Computation (2007-08 to 2012-13)

Summary Computation (2003-04 to 2006-07)


Multi-Year Comparative Cost Detail Accounts Data Files:

Detail Computation (2007-08 to 2012-13)

Detail Computation (2003-04 to 2006-07)


Single-Year Comparative Cost Pie Charts:

The links below allows users to create pie charts using audited Annual Report data, as rolled up into Comparative Cost breakdowns. Note that single-year comparisons between districts may be misleading if any of the districts in question incurred an unusual expense in any given year. Users are encouraged to research the reasons behind data anomalies before using these charts.

The 8-District worksheet prints on 2 pages, 4 pie charts/data tables to 1 page. Given the variability of expenditure data across districts, data label placement within the pie chart for some districts may be less than optimal. Should you wish to adjust the data label placement on any pie chart, the worksheet will allow for this as is has been left unprotected. Click once on the label to be adjusted. Click a second time and hold over the identified label until a grey-lined box appears around the label. Release the mouse button and point/click the mouse at the box edge, dragging to the desired position.

1-District Comparative Cost Pie & Data Charts:

2012-13 Annual Report Data

2011-12 Annual Report Data

2010-11 Annual Report Data

2009-10 Annual Report Data

2008-09 Annual Report Data

2007-08 Annual Report Data

2006-07 Annual Report Data

8-District Comparative Cost Pie & Data Charts:

2012-13 Annual Report Data

2011-12 Annual Report Data

2010-11 Annual Report Data

2009-10 Annual Report Data

2008-09 Annual Report Data

2007-08 Annual Report Data

2006-07 Annual Report Data


Single-Year Summary Data files:


Comparative Cost/Revenue Homepage


Historical Information About Cost Comparables

During the early 1980s, the Complete Annual School Cost (CASC) statistic was developed to provide a numeric measure for inter-district cost comparisons. The original CASC calculation was the cumulative total of the gross cost of the general, special project, debt service, and food service funds, plus the net cost of the capital projects fund. Historically, CASC had been reported on a resident per member basis. (Membership is defined as resident enrollment adjusted for full-time equivalency.)

Over time, K-12 educational programming and manner of delivery have become increasingly varied. Whereas in 1980, it was generally expected that a K-12 student would be educated in the district of residence, today's K-12 student may be participating in any one of a variety of educational programs including Open Enrollment and Special Transfer Integration Program (Milwaukee Area). As the diversity of education delivery methods increased, the original CASC methodology grew to be outdated. In an increasing number of cases, by the late 1990's, the cost to educate certain children was no longer accurately represented in the district actually incurring the cost. This resulted in the development and implementation of new measures during the 1999-00 school year.

PLEASE NOTE THAT THE "OLD" CASC IS NOT COMPARABLE TO THE "NEW" COMPARATIVE COST MEASURE.

Access Complete Annual School Cost (CASC) data from 1982-83 through 1998-99.

For questions about this information, contact dpifin@dpi.wi.gov (608) 267-9114
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