Janesville86°

Consolidated is safe, for now

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NEIL W. JOHNSON
April 13, 2010
— Parent Lisa Messer said the presence—or lack of—country schools like the Milton School District’s Consolidated School can make or break a family’s choice of where to live.

“I didn’t grow up in this area,” Messer said Monday. “We decided to settle in this area for a big draw, that little country elementary school.”


Messer of Edgerton was speaking before the Milton School Board, asking officials not to close Consolidated School next year.


She got good news.


The board has debated in recent weeks whether to close the K-3 school near Janesville’s northwest edge to fill a projected $758,000 budget gap in the 2010-11 budget. Monday, the board approved budget cuts submitted by district administrators that will save the district $886,000—sparing Consolidated for at least one more year.


One major cut the board approved was a $110,000 reduction in custodial staff. Officials indicated the cut could impact as many as two full-time custodians.


Superintendent Bernie Nikolay said the district doesn’t intend to replace custodians with a contract cleaning service.


Other cuts approved include: delayed technology spending—$200,000; reduced building budgets—$100,000, and an unfilled elementary teacher vacancy—$55,000.


Consolidated’s closure would have centralized student population at a time when the district expected teacher vacancies could leave as many as four classrooms open in the district, officials said.


It also would have saved about $181,000, recent district figures said. But that projection was much lower than earlier estimates of $600,000—a figure officials said was based on plans to lay off as many as four teachers.


Cuts approved Monday included no teacher layoffs.


Jon Cruzan was one of five board members voting in favor of the cuts Monday. He said once he learned savings through Consolidated School’s closure would be significantly less than the district had first estimated, he decided it could wait.


“I don’t think you should close a school precipitously. I think we’ve come up with a more measured approach,” Cruzan said.


But unless there’s an increase in enrollment or an economic upturn in the near future, officials said it’s likely the district will face closing Consolidated School again.


Board member Mike Pierce, who along with board member Al Roehl on Monday voted against cuts that would keep Consolidated School open, predicts the board will be wrestling the same decision next year.


“I believe the (Consolidated) issue will still be here,” Pierce said. “We’re going to be in cuts for a while. There’s $181,000 in savings we could have had, and what happens when there’s something that we really want? We might not be able to have it so easily.”



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