District fundraiser gets first donation

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Friday, April 8, 2011
— Nathan Warda piped up from the back of the auditorium.

"My brothers and I ..."

Before he could finish his sentence, a collective groan whispered through the room.

Not because Lincoln Elementary School teachers and counselors didn't want to hear what they knew was coming. Quite the opposite.

" ... heard that some teachers might be losing their jobs, and we wanted to help."

The room burst into applause and happy tears when Nathan handed a baggie containing $17.30 to Janesville School Board member Kristen Hesselbacher.

"Here's the first contribution to Save Janesville Schools!" Hesselbacher said around tears of her own.

Nathan, Bradley and Kyle Warda, Lincoln students who are 10, 8 and 6, collected the money from their mom and neighbors, they said.

Not everyone answered when they went door-to-door, Nathan said.

"But the people that we did get to talk to gave money," he said.

The money will be given to a grassroots group that is organizing to raise money for the district.

The donation came during the third in a series of listening sessions the school board has hosted as it struggles with a $13.4 million hole in next year's budget.

About 40 people—a mix of parents, teachers and neighbors—attended the session.

The audience was particularly emotional in light of the 130 layoff notices the school board approved Wednesday.

Heather Jelinek-Hopp said she thinks many people who got preliminary layoff notices will start looking for work elsewhere rather than wait to see if they will keep their jobs.

"How can we expect, with what we pay in taxes, to get these good people back?" Jelinek-Hopp said.

Hesslbacher said the district issued the notices to meet layoff deadlines but does not plan to lay off that many people.

Some other questions:

Q: Why doesn't the district use money from the Fund 10 balance to fill the gap?

A: It's a possibility. Fund 10 is a part of the district's budget that contains some cash reserves so the district doesn't have to borrow money for unexpected expenses, Hesselbacher said.

The district did borrow in the short-term until 10 years ago when a school board made an effort to break the habit, board member Gregory Ardrey said.

"Decisions were made, not just to not spend, but to save," Ardrey said.

Q: Why don't we have a referendum?

A: A referendum takes time to plan, and it's not a sure thing, school board member Peter Severson said.

"We can't rely on a referendum to fix this budget crisis," he said.

But a referendum could work next year, Severson said.

Q: Why can't we increase fees for sports or summer school?

A: Sports are still under discussion for possible cuts. Summer school pays for itself and can not be used to pay for programming for the school year.

Last updated: 5:02 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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