Janesville53.4°

School board: More cuts on the horizon

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FRANK J. SCHULTZ
February 18, 2011
— Janesville School Board members said Thursday athletics and other programs are on the chopping block, but they need to cut jobs firstóno matter how painful that might be.

The board faces a projected budget shortfall of nearly $10 million for the fiscal year that begins July 1. Some have predicted dozens of teachers will be laid off to balance the budget.


The comments came at the second in a series of listening session.


Parker parent Julie Backenkeller said the board should raise enrollment fees, and she suggested fees for some high-cost classes, "so senior citizens don't feel like they are bearing the brunt of this."


Charlotte Christiansen, a retiree, said musical-instrument rental fees haven't been increased for decades.


Fee increases will be on the table, as will cuts to sports, board members said.


But because the teachers contract and state laws require that employees be notified of potential layoffs months ahead of time, the board has to deal with job cuts first, members said.


Several speakers asked for higher taxes, if that was what it would take to preserve the quality of education.


Similar comments were made at the first listening session.


"Raise them. I'll pay whatever you want me to pay," said parent Amy Wagener.


"Please raise my property taxes," Christiansen said.


Christiansen was one of several speakers who made impassioned pleas to keep the high school classes that are in danger of being cut next fall.


Christiansen offered to make out a $500 check on the spot, if it would help.


Parker student Erica Bordner said she had attended five different school districts because her father is in the Navy, and she said Janesville is the best of them.


Some of the courses that are up for cuts are the ones that are the reason many students want to come to school, Bordner said.


"It really breaks my heart," Bordner said.


School board member Peter D. Severson said the courses would not permanently be cut. They will remain as part of the course offerings and could be brought back if enough students sign up for them in the future.


School board member Kristen Hesselbacher was responding to one speaker when tears welled up.


Hesselbacher was talking about her son, who will be in high school next fall and who had his heart set on a course that is on the chopping block.


"He said, 'mom, can you do something about this,' and I said, 'It doesn't work that way,'" Hesselbacher said as her voice cracked.


Board President Bill Sodemann said his daughter could lose an advanced violin course she wants next year, but he said there's a bright side: Janesville still has an orchestra program, while many districts have none.


David Moronez, a 2005 Craig graduate and engineering student at UW-Rock County, noted that courses on the cuts list include engineering and computer courses. He said those courses are the basis for the future.


"If this isn't using a hatchet when we should be using a scalpel, I don't know what is," Moronez said.



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