Delavan-Darien School Board votes to go to referendum
DELAVAN--After considering all options, the Delavan-Darien School Board voted unanimously Wednesday to ask voters for the right to increase its revenue limits by $2.1 million.
The referendum will appear on the April ballot and, if approved, would increase taxes from $9.64 per $1,000 of equalized value to $10.41 per $1,000 of equalized value.
The referendum had originally been scheduled for discussion Monday, but after a closed session meeting that night, school board Vice President Joe Peyer announced the discussion would move to Wednesday.
On Wednesday, district business manager Carey Bradley reviewed the district's financial situation including:
--What the district already has done to reduce costs, such as eliminating positions, allowing some larger class sizes, reducing course offerings and programming, modifying health insurance, limiting pay increases, deferring maintenance projects and reducing bus routes and costs.
--What state revenue caps have meant for the district. The state imposed revenue caps on school districts in 1993 to help hold down local property taxes. Districts that had budgeted carefully, however, found themselves facing financial challenges.
--Showed the differences in per-pupil revenue limits in Walworth County. Districts that were less financially conservative now have significantly higher revenue limits per pupil.
For example, for the 2012-13 school year, Williams Bay has the highest per-pupil revenue limit at $11,937. The Delavan-Darien School District has the lowest at $9,185. The county average for per-pupil revenue limits is $9,860.
Board member Steve Logterman pointed out that based on the number of students in Delavan-Darien schools, the district was receiving $1.8 million less than the county average.
Board members used that average in their discussion about how much to ask for from voters.
"The biggest struggle for me is what is the correct amount to go after," Peyer said. "Schools can make a community great, or they can make a community poor."
Chad Kort noted that several weeks ago he had asked, "Why $2 million?" and "Why now?" Kort said he felt his questions had been answered.
"The community supported the strategic plan, and now we have an obligation to go out to community and ask for support," Kort said.
Kort said he was a strong believer in the statement, "You don't fix a problem by throwing money at it," but in this case the district had done its work, making cuts where it could.
"This is necessary to fund the strategic plan," he said.
Logterman said that along with the discrepancy between revenue per student among schools, Delavan-Darien also has a higher number of special needs students and students living in poverty.
Logterman also wondered if it wouldn't be better to vote on the referendum issue when all board members were present. Board President Jeff Scherer and Jim Hansen are on vacation and missed Wednesday's meeting.,
Peyer said he had talked to both men and they were strongly in favor of going to referendum.
There were no members of the public at Wednesday's meeting. At Monday's meeting, very few district residents attended, and none spoke on the issue. Superintendent Robert Crist said he didn't know why.
"I would love if more people came to the meeting to see the presentation," he said, "and I know the board would love it, too."