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Janesville School District superintendent details potential budget cuts

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FRANK J. SCHULTZ
August 20, 2011
— A new list of possible cuts to the Janesville School District’s budget includes sports, maintenance, computer support and the folks who give kids hugs and run interference for principals, among many other services.

Whether the school board would make any of these cuts, however, is questionable.


The school board recently ordered Superintendent Karen Schulte to make a list of potential cuts, even though the board already has raised fees and eliminated about $9 million from this year’s budget.


The board still faces a projected $2.1 million budget shortfall this year and is weighing the potential of cuts against raising taxes.


Schulte continues to tell the board that further cuts would harm education.


“I don’t agree with this. I don’t endorse it. I’m just doing my job,” Schulte told the Gazette.


In a memo released Friday, Schulte wrote that the list is meant, in part, “to help taxpayers understand what is at stake if the School District of Janesville makes some of these reductions.”


One downside of making the list public is that employees might resign “because of an unstable work environment,” Schulte wrote.


Here’s Schulte’s list, which the school board is scheduled to consider it at its meeting Monday:


--Suspend paying salaries to advisers to all student clubs, including forensics, drama and DECA, as well as coaches and others who work in student activities, including sports, starting with the winter sports season. Savings: about $500,000.


Volunteers would not be allowed to fill the gaps because of liability concerns, so winter and spring sports would be suspended.


The district probably would have to pay a lawyer to handle the change because of a contract signed with the WIAA, Schulte wrote in a memo to the board.


“I think the plan for savings through this method is very shortsighted if you consider the long-term economic effect of students and families that would leave the district if this is the way we choose to deliver our co-curricular programs,” Schulte wrote.


--Lay off confidential secretaries, managers, supervisors, computer technicians and various other positions for a total savings of more than $3.4 million.


Schulte said losing these positions would mean losing expertise in office software, computer networks and installation, research, employee benefits, getting government reimbursements, contract negotiations, grants management and worker-compensation and labor law.


Teachers, administrators and others can’t be laid off this time of year because of contractual obligations, but other employees can be terminated.


--Lay off custodial and/or maintenance workers. These staffs already were reduced for this year. The total compensation for this group, plus food service workers, exceeds $5.4 million.


--Lay off secretaries, clerks and/or aides, another group that already has seen cuts. These employees cover a wide range of duties, including many that directly affect children. Total compensation, more than $8.3 million.


--Sell 11.82 acres of district-owned land at 2332 S. Crosby Ave.


--Sell the Educational Services Center. This would involve remodeling to make school rooms into offices at another building, Schulte wrote.


--Reduce travel reimbursement for professional development to all staff from 51 cents to 33 cents a mile, saving about $8,000. Staff members could claim the difference on their taxes.


Schulte also noted a projected budget shortfall of $9 million for the 2012-13 school year. She does not recommend cutting more teachers, but if the board wants to go in that direction, she said, the administration needs to know this fall in order to plan.


Those cuts could include eliminating art and music and increasing the size of elementary school classes, Schulte suggested.


Cutting all teachers’ co-curricular assignments, including coaches, next year could save $1 million, she wrote.


On the agenda

The Janesville School Board meets at 6:30 p.m. Monday. This is a regular board meeting, although it’s not on the usual Tuesday night. The agenda includes:


--An address by Quint Studer, whose Studer Group has been guiding the district in its quality-improvement effort, the Journey to Excellence. The meeting date was changed to accommodate Studer’s schedule.


--The hiring of Jim Degan as the new manager of food services, replacing Deb Goad, who retired. Degan has held a similar job in the Milton School District for nine years. He would be paid $77,000 annually. This and the following appointment are on the consent agenda and so might not be discussed.


--The appointment of Julie DeCook as coordinator of the federal Title 1 and Title 3 programs. The new position allows the district to use federal funding to pay DeCook’s compensation, shifting about $68,000 from local to federal funding. DeCook has served as coordinator of the district’s English language learners program.



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