Janesville61.6°

Albany schools to turn to referendum

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GINA R. HEINE
January 16, 2009
— Voters in the Albany School District will decide in April whether to fund the repair of the school’s roof, buy a new boiler system and exceed the revenue cap next school year.

One or more referendum questions will appear on the April 7 ballot, though the school board has not yet decided on the wording of the questions or dollar amounts, District Administrator Steve Guenther said.


Those decisions will be made in the coming weeks and must be finalized by the board’s Feb. 9 meeting, he said.


The district is in the fourth year of a five-year referendum that voters approved in fall 2003 to exceed the revenue cap. That referendum provided $150,000 for the general fund and $50,000 for technology each year.


But it hasn’t been enough. Expenses continue to increase despite cuts throughout the district the last couple years, including administrative cuts. In addition to the referendum money, this year the district dipped into its reserve fund for $100,000, Guenther said.


Without additional help from taxpayers, substantial cuts in staff and programs would have to be made, he said.


“It really would affect the quality of what we’re able to provide for the kids,” he said.


The district is working with financial advisers and getting advice from Monticello school officials who recently had a similar situation on referendums for maintenance and exceeding the revenue cap.


The district faces two other pressing issues:


-- After last year’s rough winter, officials found drainage and other problems with the school’s roof.


“We didn’t realize the level of the problem until the spring,” Guenther said.


The leaks were patched, but a longer-term solution is needed, he said.


“We really need to do some extensive work on the roofs,” he said.


That project would lead to an increase in energy efficiency.


-- The school’s two-boiler heating system, running with steam, is 40 to 45 years old.


While the school hasn’t had a breakdown yet—just one smaller incident—officials don’t want to get caught with no heat, Guenther said.


“We’re getting to the point where maintenance isn’t going to cut it,” he said.


The district would ask taxpayers to fund a new hot water boiler system, which also would be more efficient, he said. Some of the experts consulted said a new system could provide 30 to 40 percent energy savings over the current steam system, he said.


“Hopefully, we build a strong case,” he said. “Our community has been very supportive in the past, hopefully they’ll continue and keep our schools going strong and plan for the future.”



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