Schools facing budget choices
If you go
The Janesville School Board meets at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Educational Services Center, 527 S. Franklin St. Agenda items include:
- A review of the 2008-09 athletics budget.
- Discussion and possible approval of board goals for 2009-10.
- A request to waive board policy at Craig High School, which wants to expand its foreign-exchange student numbers to nine this year. Policy permits only four.
JANESVILLE The Janesville School Board will be presented with three taxing possibilities when it meets Tuesday:
- Set property taxes to the maximum allowed by law.
- Not increase school property taxes.
- Settle for something in between the two extremes.
Keith Pennington, the district’s new CFO, said Friday he will present those budget scenarios to the board Tuesday.
Tuesday was supposed to be the school board’s first look at a detailed 2009-10 budget book, but that has been delayed until Sept. 22, Pennington said.
Pennington said it would save him time if the board indicates its budget wishes before the budget is completed. He compared the situation to arriving at a crossroads:
“We’re at a red light right now, and before we put in a lot of work, I want them to tell us which of the three streets they want to go down, and then we’ll go nuts on it.”
Most if not all board members have indicated they’d like to hold down any tax increase. At one point, the board seemed to agree to holding down taxes to the amount needed to cover referendum debt service, which was put at a 1.88 percent increase in the equalized tax rate.
How the equalized tax rate would translate into actual tax rates in the district’s different municipalities was unknown.
Some board members have mentioned using the district’s budget reserve, known as the Fund 10 balance, to hold down taxes. Budget cuts also have been discussed.
Tim Cullen, a board member and finance committee chairman, has been vocal in his desire to see a complete budget before making a final decision, rather than voting on spending plans piecemeal.
Cullen proposed and the board agreed to wait on publishing a budget, which normally is done in July. The decision was based on uncertainties, including the question of how much of the federal stimulus funding could be used to plug budget holes, what fall enrollment will be, and the cost of a settlement with the teachers union.
Unknowns remain. The teachers contract negotiations are continuing. Fall enrollment won’t be known until after the official count Sept. 18.
Although he will present the three scenarios, Pennington said, the board could decide to set the budget goal at a different point than he suggests, and he could work with that.
Pennington said the budget book would be ready for the board’s Sept. 22 meeting. Because of legal requirements, he said, the board will be asked to approve the budget book for publication on that same date. A public hearing on the budget would be set for sometime in October.
The board is required by law to set the tax levy by the end of October.