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Brodhead school voters face referendum to maintain staff, extracurriculars

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GINA R. HEINE
February 8, 2010
— If a school referendum in Brodhead fails next week, Superintendent Chuck Deery paints a dire picture.

Voters will be asked to exceed the revenue caps for a total of $3.59 million over four years to maintain existing staffing and programs and to pay for a new roof on the high school.


Without that boost in funding, Deery said the district will be forced to cut 11 positions and all sports and extracurricular activities at the middle and high schools.


District officials have “real serious concerns” if the referendum fails because families will have three days to file by the state’s open enrollment deadline to attend different districts, Deery said.


“I’ve been hearing from quite a few families that that’s exactly what they’re going to do,” he said. “They won’t wait around (to see the board make the cuts). They want those activities for their kids.”


A growth in expenses surpassing state-allowed revenue limits and past and projected declining enrollments are the main reasons behind the need, Deery said. A new roof also is needed on the 15-year-old high school, he said.


The district has cut an average of $200,000 each year for the last six years, he said. The board is beyond the point of making more cuts without a major impact on students, so it wants the community to decide, he said.


This year’s school tax rate is $8.45 per $1,000 of assessed home value, which is one of the area’s lowest, Deery said. If residents support the referendum, the tax rate would increase from $8.85 in the first year gradually up to $10.73 in the fourth year, he said.


Ripple effects of cuts after a no vote would show outside the school walls, Deery said. He described potential effects:


-- Students would leave the district to play sports or have more opportunities at other districts, meaning Brodhead loses aid for each student who leaves.


-- Property values can drop, he said. Deery said officials have studied other districts that cut sports, and those districts found property values dropped because people didn’t want to move to a community without sports or opportunities for kids.


-- Community involvement in the school drops, making school less interesting for kids. In a small town, the schools are a main hub of the community, he said.


-- Some teachers and staff members have said they want activities for their kids, and if Brodhead can’t provide them, they’ll go elsewhere.


-- Studies show a correlation between where people shop and where they work or attend their kids’ activities, he said. If residents are heading to and from school events in Monroe, for example, they’ll likely pick up groceries there instead of spending money in Brodhead.


The district has settled its 2009-2011 contract with teachers, and the total package increase is 3.9 percent. Of that, the salary increase is 1.56 percent the first year and 1.89 percent the second year.


Residents who oppose the referendum have written letters to the editor to local newspapers saying the district is using scare tactics, such as threatening to cut sports.


“It will happen,” said Peggy Olsen, board president. “That is on the list of budget cuts to meet the budget.”


When the board compiled its list of cuts if the referendum fails, Deery said he stressed over and over not to include items that members don’t plan to cut.


“They’ve discussed that in length,” he said.


Cutting all extracurricular activities would save the district nearly $40,000 annually at the middle school and nearly $160,000 at the high school, he said.


“(It’s) $200,000 worth of savings that they can’t find anywhere else,” he said.


Olsen said people ask her, “How did we get to this point?”


She responds by saying the board has been making cuts for six years, cutting “as much out of it as we think we’re willing to cut without asking the public.”


Board members believe they’ve done the hard work. Now it’s up to the community, she said.


“The community needs to have a say … and that’s what’s going to happen,” she said.


Brodhead school referendum

A “YES” vote:


Approves spending $3.59 million over four years by this schedule:


-- 2010-2011: $635,000


-- 2011-2012: $810,000


-- 2012-2013: $855,000


-- 2013-2014: $1,285,000


Money to replace the 15-year-old high school’s roof is included in the first two years of borrowing. The rest of the money for all four years would maintain existing staffing and programming.


Even if the referendum is approved, the district will continue to look at cuts, said Peggy Olsen, board president.


“Every time someone leaves, we always look at it,” she said. “We’ll continue to look at administrative cuts.”


A “NO” vote:


Will not approve the spending. The school board put together a list of cuts it said it will be forced to make, including:


-- Three elementary teaching positions, moving all grades to three sections


-- Three teaching positions between the high school and middle school


-- Two elective programs and their teachers at the high school and middle school


-- One guidance counselor


-- Two administrators


-- The high school adventures class


-- The long-distance learning program


-- All extracurricular positions at the high school and middle school. These cuts would be phased in over the next two years.


Source: Brodhead School District



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