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Williams Bay School Board asked to reconsider cuts

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Kevin Hoffman
February 8, 2011
— Eliminating a dozen positions throughout the Williams Bay School District still might not be enough to corral its growing deficit, and board members suggest a referendum seeking additional revenue is still the best option.

The district held a public hearing Monday evening, drawing more than 100 parents and students who pleaded with board members to reconsider proposed cuts in the district. Consolidating positions and reviewing benefits were some of more than 70 questions and suggestions posed during the hearing.


Board members plan further discussions and review before making any decisions.


"The plan at this time is to try and see what the community's feeling is for the school," said District Administrator Fred Vorlop, adding a new referendum would be a key part of that process.


The proposed cuts are fallout from a failed referendum last fall, when the district asked voters to allow it to exceed the state revenue cap by nearly $500,000 dollars in the 2010-11 and 2011-12 school years. The district then wants a recurring increase of $890,000 each year after.


Vorlop warned in the weeks before the election that without the extra revenue, the district might be forced to cut close to a quarter of its 50 teachers within five years.


The district faces a $600,000 deficit, Vorlop said. The board seeks to cut three full-time teachers, 4.5 full- and part-time teachers, two aide positions, one maintenance worker and one administrator, he added.


The district also would cut three food service positions. The cost of meals increased 30 cents this semester, and the district has a $55,000 debt in food service, Vorlop said.


The board provided a more detailed breakdown of the proposed cuts Monday, which include reduced funding for field trips, elimination of outdoor education and fewer sections of subjects such as biology and English.


Parents and students both spoke out against the plan, arguing small class sizes have significantly contributed to the district's success.


"Students don't come to Williams Bay for the cafeteria food or the decorated hallways," said one senior student. "It's hard out there; I understand that. Money is tight. But your children are not going to be any better off if you take away all the advantages Williams Bay has to offer."


School board President Peter Miller told one concerned parent it's likely a new referendum will need to be approved to address the deficit. Unless a special election is held, the next time the district could do that is February 2012.


Miller said it's likely the board would have made cuts regardless of the outcome of the referendum last fall. The cuts just likely would not have been to this extend, he said.


The district's financial projections, which include the $610,000 in proposed cuts, indicate it could still be as much as $788,000 in debt by the 2015-16 school year.


Beyond that, Vorlop said things would be "disastrous."


"(Our situation) is fairly typical in Wisconsin because districts are limited in the funding they can raise to run a school," Vorlop said. "If we complain to the state, which school administrators want to do, the response always comes back, 'You can go to your electorate and try to get them to approve more funding.'


"And that's the hang-up the school districts have to face."



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