School board faces tough budget choices
On the agenda
The Janesville School Board meets at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Educational Services Center, 527 S. Franklin St. Two board committees—personnel and buildings and grounds/finance—meet at 6 p.m.
On the main meeting agenda:
-- Discussion of the bidding processes for the Parker and Craig running track projects. This continues a discussion that started when questions were raised at the last meeting. This item is also on the agenda of the buildings and grounds/finance committee.
-- Discussion of a request by some Parker High School parents to name Parker's new gymnasium after John Sommerville, a longtime west-side basketball booster and coach who died Jan. 20. This item also is on the agenda of the buildings and grounds/finance committee.
-- Discussion about whether the board can delegate the scheduling of inclement-weather makeup days to the superintendent. This item is also on the agenda of the personnel committee.
-- Discussion about the process of hiring administrators this spring, as Superintendent Tom Evert is retiring, and a new superintendent isn't expected to be on the job until July 1. One key position to be filled is that of Director of Business Services Doug Bunton, who also retires June 30. This item is also on the agenda of the personnel committee.
The board plans to meet in closed session immediately after the regular meeting in order to "discuss and plan for negotiations with the JEA for the 2009-11 contract." The JEA is the teachers union.
JANESVILLE As expected, the Janesville School District has a gaping budget hole to fill.
Preliminary estimates show that spending will have to be cut or revenues increased in 2009-10 to fill the hole, according to a memo from Business Services Director Doug Bunton.
The school board will hear a report when it meets Tuesday night.
Bunton's estimates can be divided into three scenarios:
-- A shortfall of more than $1.3 million if current programs are maintained and if property taxes are increased to the maximum allowed by law.
-- A shortfall of more than $1.9 million if the board approves 10 proposed new positions and sets the property tax to the maximum.
-- A shortfall of about $2.6 million if the board demands no increase in the tax rate.
Several board members and candidates in the spring elections have expressed interest in holding down taxes. Some have even called for a zero-increase budget, something not contemplated in Bunton's estimates.
All three scenarios are based on assumptions, including an increase in wages and benefits combined of 3.8 percent.
Negotiations on the new teachers contract for 2009-11 are expected to begin soon, so the actual increase for the district's largest employee group remains unknown.
Even a zero tax-rate increase could mean an increase in taxes. The rate is the tax assessed on each $1,000 of property value. If a property's assessment goes up, and the tax rate doesn't change, taxes still go up.
The district's overall property valuation is one of the many unknowns in the estimate, according to the memo: "Neither the city nor the Department of Revenue was able to provide any information regarding possible changes in the equalized value at this time."
Also unknown is the level of funding schools can expect from the state and federal governments.
At least one version of the federal stimulus package now before Congress includes funding increases for every school district.
Gov. Jim Doyle has said education is one of his top priorities, but he has not stated what he will propose to spend on schools in the 2009-11 biennial budget.
The school and state budget years begin July 1, but past Legislatures often have failed to pass the biennial budget before that date.
Numbers of note regarding the Janesville School District's budget:
-- This year's budget: $112 million.
-- The estimated maximum property tax-rate increase for next year: 7.6 percent.
The 2009-10 budget estimate assumes the following:
-- Maximum tax levy allowed by law.
-- No change in current staffing.
-- 3.03 percent revenue increase.
-- 3.95 percent spending increase.
-- 2 percent increase in allocations to each school for supplies, equipment, etc.
-- 5 percent increase in utilities.
-- $300,000 added to the new-textbook account.
-- $250,000 increase in computer technology staffing.
-- $100,000 increase for computer equipement.
-- One additional teacher for the Chinese-language program. A teacher's salary and benefits is estimated at $57,859.
-- Three "contingency" positions, setting aside money to hire up to three teachers, if needed, during the school year.
-- An unspecified amount to be set aside to pay unfunded retirement benefits.
-- An unspecified amount to begin buying seat belts in new school buses.
New positions proposed
-- Six new high school custodians, $348,000.
-- Two full-time teachers for a new elementary school foreign language program, $115,718.
-- Two full-time teachers to expand the TAGOS charter school for at-risk students: $115,718.