Janesville75.5°

Board cuts proposed spending to help taxpayers

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FRANK J. SCHULTZ
August 27, 2008
— The Janesville School Board on Tuesday cobbled together budget cuts and cost-shifting to hold down the increase in property taxes in the coming year.

Board members aimed to help taxpayers, many of whom are suffering from layoffs or are facing layoffs.


The board came up with $1.75 million in budget adjustments, resulting in an estimated increase in the tax levy of 3.7 percent.


That contrasts with an 8.9 percent levy increase proposed by the administration.


The operational budget will increase by just 0.58 percent, to $110.73 million.


The impact on the individual taxpayer was not discussedand officials were at an all-staff meeting this morning, unable to answer questions.


The board went item-by-item over a $1 million list of potential cuts provided by the administration. Many of the cuts were in general budget categories and did not include specifics. As a result, board members argued whether certain cuts would affect students.


Tim Cullen said that all of the cuts on the $1 million list would be easy to make, and he wanted to cut the budget even further.


"I think we've got to do this and another million dollars," Cullen said.


Lori Stottler said some of the cuts would affect students, and she didn't agree the cuts would be easy.


A proposal to cut the non-capital equipment and software budget failed on a 4-4 vote. Officials said some of the software is for student use. Voting to make the cut were Cullen, Kevin Murray, DuWayne Severson and Bill Sodemann.


A proposal to cut the staff travel and training budget of $503,000 by $50,000 was defeated on a 5-3 vote. Cullen, Murray and DuWayne Severson were in the minority.


Stottler said she negotiated a contract with the teachers that calls for improved staff development, so she didn't want to turn around and cut that budget.


The board also failed to cut the $2.49 million maintenance budget by $281,000 on a 4-4 vote. Voting to cut maintenance were Gregory Ardrey, Cullen, Murray and DuWayne Severson.


Doug Bunton, director of business services, said parking lot cracks wouldn't be patched if the maintenance budget was cut, resulting in bigger cracks over the winter and, ultimately, higher costs to repair the lots.


"It would cost us more in the long run, no doubt about it," Bunton said.


But taxpayers are struggling to pay for food and gasoline while facing layoffs, Murray argued.


People are scrimping to save money, Cullen said. They are not traveling. They are not repairing their driveways.


If the board doesn't cut now, it will cut teachers in the future, Cullen warned.


A motion to cut maintenance by $141,000 did pass, however, on a 7-1 vote, with Sheridan voting no.


The board also voted to keep $15,000 in the budget to help with the Studer Group process. The consultant is donating $1.2 million in services to help the district improve management and morale. Voting to cut were Cullen, Murray and DuWayne Severson.


A cut of $30,000 to the safety budget failed on a 4-4 vote, with Ardrey, Cullen, Murray and DuWayne Severson voting to cut.


The safety money will pay for electronic door-lock security systems for the middle schools.


In the end, the board voted 8-0 to approve the amended 2008-09 budget.


Superintendent Tom Evert said the 2009-10 budget will involve deeper cuts and much more difficult choices because of the effect of the state school-funding system.


Cullen said he could live with a 3.7 percent increase in the levy, although it wouldn't be easy to explain to constituents.


"I have no problem defending 3.7 percent," Stottler responded.


"I think our taxpayers will be very grateful for what we've been able to do," DuWayne Severson said.


BUDGET CHANGES

Here's what the Janesville School Board did to the proposed 2008-09 budget Tuesday:


-- Applied $520,000 in interest earnings to reduce debt payments. The interest is from money borrowed but not yet spent on the high school expansion projects. The vote was 5-3, with Lori Stottler, Peter Severson and Peggy Sheridan voting no. Board member Debra Kolste was absent.


-- Moved $490,000 from the operational fund balance to pay startup costs for the new 4-year-old kindergarten program. The vote was 8-0.


-- Cut the budget for the district's self-funded health insurance plan by $300,000. The vote was 8-0.


-- Cut the $1.47 million "personal services" budget by $100,000. Personal services include consultants and contractors whose services the district buys. The vote was 6-2, with Stottler and Sheridan voting no.


-- Cut the supplies budget of $2.2 million by $25,000. The vote was 6-2. Stottler and Sheridan voted no.


-- Cut the maintenance projects budget of $2.49 million by $141,000. The vote was 7-1. Sheridan voted no.


-- Cut the $222,535 contingency budget by $100,000. The vote was 8-0. The contingency budget is unallocated money used to for unexpected expenses.


-- Cut $15,000 for a study of administrative efficiency. The vote was 7-1, with Sodemann voting no.


-- Cut $9,000 for a study of fund raising through the alumni association. Vote was 8-0.


-- Cut the replacement budget of $1.63 million by $50,000. The vote was 7-1, with Sheridan voting no. This budget includes instructional technology and textbooks, among other items.


OTHER BUSINESS

In other business Tuesday, the Janesville School Board:


-- Instructed administration to study of the costs and other difficulties associated with installing seat belts on Van Galder school buses. An initial cost estimate was $10,000 to outfit 18 buses, or $180,000.


-- Voted 8-0 to hire one extra teacher for children whose native tongue isnít English. The district has seen an unusual increase in such students over the summer, and more are still registering, said Donna Behn, director of instruction.


-- Heard a report on the high school expansion projects. Officials said the schools will be ready to go when students return Tuesday. The projectís contingency fund is down to $400,000, which is cause for concern, said Doug Bunton, director of business services. Bunton said he canceled an order for a system to hoist wrestling mats into the ceilings of the new gymnasiums. Construction will continue for another year. Public tours of the partially completed projects are being arranged for this fall.



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