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Janesville School Board taps reserve for $3.4 million

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FRANK J. SCHULTZ
April 27, 2011
— The Janesville School Board will take $3.4 million out of its “checking account” to help balance the 2011-12 budget.

The full impact of that money was not immediately clear, but the vote gives Superintendent Karen Schulte and her staff more information that could help them determine how many laid-off teachers, counselors and librarians might be called back.


About 125 members of the teaching union have received layoff notices, but Schulte said she hopes to reduce that number.


The board voted to use the so-called Fund 10 balance, which has been called the district’s checking account, because it grows and falls back during the year as bills are paid and as income is received.


The vote was 5-3, with Karl Dommershausen, Kristin Hesselbacher and Peter Severson voting “no.”


Hesselbacher and Kevin Murray both tried to increase the amount to more than $4 million, but those votes failed.


The board has other decisions to make on other possible cuts to the district budget to fill a projected $13.4 million budget deficit.


The board also decided Tuesday night that the schools won’t be as clean next fall as they are now.


The board voted to cut 10 district custodial positions, saving about $410,000.


The level of cleanliness can still be satisfactory, however, said Steve Eichman, who manages custodians for the district.


Eichman analyzed the square footage cleaned by each custodian and the cleanliness levels achieved. He concluded that cutting 10 workers would leave the schools “reasonably clean and sanitary,” although not as clean as they are now.


Cutting more than 10 custodians would jeopardize the cleanliness of the schools, Eichman said.


Board member Kevin Murray asked Jim Millard, chief steward of the custodial union, for his thoughts.


“I think it’s a mistake, and I would ask that you would look into the Fund 10 balance, as I emailed all of you earlier today,” Millard said.


But the board voted 8-0 to cut the custodians, that vote coming before the Fund 10 vote.


Murray said he hoped the cuts could be achieved through retirements or resignations and not layoffs.


Eichman said there would be a period of transition in which the areas that custodians clean would be expanded. Asked how soon the jobs would be cut, he said “earlier rather than later.”


The board also approved surcharges for some high school and middle school sports. The board previously approved a higher high school athletics fee next year—$75 instead of $50. Now, students in football, hockey, golf, softball and baseball will begin paying additional surcharges for equipment or for using off-site facilities.


Middle school students also will begin to pay an athletics fee for the first time, $30.


Twenty-nine of the 83 middle school coaches will be cut, and middle school intramurals are eliminated.


The board voted to underwrite the cost of five new large school buses for the district’s provider, VanGalder Bus Co. The board continued with its decision of several years ago to have three-point seat belts installed when large buses are replaced.


The district’s cost for the buses is $55,000. The money will come from district reserves, which is why Greg Ardrey, Karl Dommershausen and Stottler voted “no.”


Stottler said the board’s original intent was to have the bus costs built into the budget, not to continue taking the money from the Fund 10 balance.


Schulte has said she hopes that for the board’s May 10 meeting, she will have a plan ready to show how the district will manage with a reduced staff next fall.


IN OTHER BUSINESS

In other business Tuesday, the Janesville School Board:


-- Reorganized and unanimously chose Bill Sodemann to be president for a second year. No one ran against Sodemann. Kevin Murray was the unanimous choice for vice president.


-- Heard that the district will receive a $150,000 grant to buy Smart Boards, cameras and other technology.


-- Heard from Superintendent Karen Schulte, who strongly suggested that although the union contracts protect workers from having to pay retirement and increased health insurance premiums under the state budget repair bill, employees could still volunteer to pay those costs and have them deducted from their paychecks.



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