Board wrestles with budget, pay

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Wednesday, May 26, 2010
— The Janesville School Board did not decide how much it will pay employees next school year, but it did decide Tuesday to put some numbers on the board for the purposes of argument.

The board voted 8-0 to have the administration to set up two budget scenarios, one in which all employees would see a 0 percent raise, and one in which they would get a 0.5 percent raise.

Board members made it clear they were not trying to influence ongoing contract negotiations.

Rather, they were adding numbers to their budget calculations so they could better understand what their choices would be.

Salaries are crucial. Under the 0.5 percent raise scenario, salaries and benefits make up nearly $89 million of an operational budget of about $108 million.

Under the scenarios, teachers would get either the 0 percent or 0.5 percent raise plus their "step" and "lane" increases, which are pay hikes that kick in when teachers reach certain longevity and education milestones.

A 0.5 percent raise would mean adding about $428,000 for teacher pay, part of a total $642,500 hike for all salary and benefit costs, according to the operational budget calculator.

Those are the kinds of numbers some board members said they wanted so they could start looking at what kinds of cuts they will have to make and to have a more meaningful budget debate.

The 0.5 percent increase was based on board member Kevin Murray's interpretation of a Consumer Price Index increase of 2.2 percent over the past 12 months. The step and lane movements plus the 0.5 percent would add up to about 2.2 percent, Murray figured.

The board's budget discussion came after several speakers asked the board to tax to the maximum allowed by law. That would be about a 10 percent property tax increase.

Teacher Wendy Haag told of teachers having to buy their own copy paper, even before the proposed budget cuts in school supplies and equipment for the coming year.

"I'm frustrated with the ongoing discussion that I hear from this body with 'cut, cut, cut,' " Haag said.

Teacher Jon Maglio said supplies are becoming a critical issue for some teachers.

"I know you guys are making some difficult choices, but I do highly encourage you to talk to teachers and consider what's best for our students," Maglio said.

Board member DuWayne Severson said he appreciated the speakers' passion, but the reality is that taxpayers' ability to pay is waning.

Severson cited Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers showing the average hourly wage in Janesville has dropped from around $23 in 2007 to about $17 today.

Severson called for as small a tax increase as possible.

The 0.5 percent salary increase, along with the 4.7 percent tax increase the board has set as a preliminary goal, would still require a cut of $3 million to balance the budget, according to the budget calculator.

The 0 percent salary increase would require cuts of $2.7 million.

No tax increase, under either salary scenario, would mean cutting well over $4 million.

Last updated: 1:45 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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