Janesville School Board mulls tough choices
Sports, band and books were mentioned as possible cuts as board members debated how to balance the 2010-11 budget.
The question the board faces is how to cut $2.1 million or more from the budget, even with a 4.7 percent increase in the tax levy.
The board voted for the 4.7 percent increase as working number. It has a long way to go before it actually sets the tax levy.
DuWayne Severson got the ball rolling Thursday by repeating his argument that local taxpayers can’t afford such a tax increase because of ongoing unemployment and related economic hits to the local economy.
Severson favors no more than a 1.6 percent increase in the levy.
Kristin Hesselbacher countered with the language of the state statutes, which say a school board must “determine the amount necessary … to operate and maintain the schools” and that the board must “keep the school buildings and grounds in good repair.”
With the 4.7 percent tax increase, “I think we are barely maintaining and operating the school district,” Hesselbacher said.
The economy also concerns her, Hesselbacher said. “But to me what that translates into is student needs. Our students are going to need even more attention from their teachers, more attention from social workers and counselors, and if we keep adding duties onto already existing positions, I don’t see how students are going to get that added attention.”
Hesselbacher said the administration is considering furlough days, not replacing textbooks and cuts in staff training, high school sports and the five police officers that are stationed at the middle and high schools. The district pays some of the costs for those officers.
Those cuts would affect learning, test scores and graduation rates, Hesselbacher said.
Kevin Murray said he was not going to speak up until certain members started “grandstanding.”
Murray said taxes are also his concern.
“I don’t think we’ve seen the worst of it yet. I think we’re just starting to hit the bottom, economically, in Janesville,” Murray said.
Murray suggested that making ends meet could mean “major cuts,” including closing a school.
“I would look at anything that happens after school that doesn’t have a direct impact on children getting the core curriculum they need to graduate from high school,” Murray said, and that includes “athletics, band, all the arts after school, we could go on an on.”
Nothing was decided Thursday. District CFO Keith Pennington said he’s working on recommendations for how to cut $2.1 million from the budget. He said those ideas will be ready “shortly.”
The $2.1 million is an estimate with a huge question mark dangling over it. Still unknown to school officials is what pay raises if any, teachers will get next year.
The teachers’ contract still is not settled nearly a year after the old contact expired. The contract for the food service, maintenance and custodial employees also remains in negotiation.
Board member Lori Stottler noted that the board has talked about public-input meetings on the budget. She suggested Tuesday, June 29.
Board President Bill Sodemann mentioned Tuesday, June 22 as a possibility. No decision was made.
Sodemann noted that district residents also can share their thoughts with board members via e-mail.
A note for those who watched the school board meeting on cable TV: Board members referred to tax increases of 6 percent and 2 percent.
Those percentages refer to the operational budget only. When debt service is figured in, 6 percent becomes 4.7 percent, and 2 percent becomes 1.6 percent.
WHO TO CONTACT
Want to share your thoughts with the Janesville School Board? Letters can be sent to the Educational Services Center, 527 S. Franklin St., Janesville, WI 53548. Or, send e-mail to:
-- Greg Ardrey—firstname.lastname@example.org
-- Karl Dommershausen—kdommershausen @janesville.k12.wi.us
-- Kristen Hesselbacher—email@example.com
-- Kevin Murray—firstname.lastname@example.org
-- DuWayne Severson—email@example.com
-- Peter D. Severson—firstname.lastname@example.org
-- Peggy Sheridan—email@example.com
-- Bill Sodemann—firstname.lastname@example.org
-- Lori Stottler—email@example.com