Janesville66.7°

Looking for a less painful plan

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FRANK J. SCHULTZ
February 13, 2008
— Janesville public schools administrators are working to avoid cutting any teachers or programs next school year.

Administrators have been saying for months that they expected painful decisions as they deal with a budget shortfall of about $2 million for 2008-09.


But on Tuesday night, district business director Doug Bunton described a less painful plan.


Bunton said that if all current programs were continued as-is next fall, and if salaries, benefits and other expenses increase as expected, and if revenue from state aid and property taxes increased as expected, the district faces a budget shortfall of $2.29 million.


Thatís the biggest shortfall yet in a string of years in which the board had to make cuts.


But Bunton said he could save $1.41 million by reducing a variety of spending accounts across the district that have been under-spent in recent years.


He also would not increase budgets for school supplies for the fourth year in a row, saving $312,000.


And Bunton had one of two ways to pay the $488,000 startup costs for Preschool 4 Janesville, the districtís new 4-year-old kindergarten program: Either a state grant will cover the cost, or the district would take it out of the reserve fund, known as the fund balance.


The fund balance is a politically sensitive topic. Teachers have been complaining that the board is socking away millions it could be using to maintain programs and positions and increase teacher pay.


Bunton also proposed to raise $82,000 by increasing enrollment fees.


Buntonís calculations include an increase of three elementary teachers next fall. But Bunton said he didnít know what staffing changes might be needed in the middle or high schools because those have not yet been calculated.


In another budget move, Bunton proposed taking $1.5 million out of the fund balance and putting it into a new trust the board will create to pre-fund early-retirement benefits.


Moving the money to the trust will mean the state will increase its school aids by that amount the next year, which would hold down property taxes but not help with the shortfall, Bunton said.


Despite Buntonís projection, the board received a briefing on how the district might cut elementary art classes from 80 minutes a week to 60 minutes.


ďThere is a possibility in the near future that you will have to make some difficult decisions,Ē Director of Human and Administrative Services Steve Johnson told the board as he began the presentation.


The board is expected to take up Buntonís proposals at its next meeting Tuesday, Feb. 26. Other projections for next year might be announced when the board gets a look at the staffing plan Tuesday, March 11.


OTHER BUSINESS

The Janesville School Board on Tuesday night also:


-- Approved a contract with The Studer Group, a company that promises to improve management and results districtwide through the use of training, software and consulting services. Quint Studer, a former Janesville resident, is donating his companyís services. The value of the services over three years is estimated at $1.2 million.


-- Accepted the retirement of Ann Wilmot, art teacher at Madison Elementary School, effective June 6. Wilmot has worked in the district 18 years.


-- Approved the teaching appointments of Kristina Angell as French teacher at Franklin Middle and Parker High schools; Stacey Petter as special education teacher at Adams School; Lissa Robinson as eighth-grade teacher at Marshall Middle School; and Andrew Tubbs as English teacher at Craig High School.


-- Approved the appointment of Shanley Hamilton as occupational therapist.



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