Janesville68.3°

Janesville School Board member seeking sense of urgency with budget discussions

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FRANK J. SCHULTZ
January 22, 2011
— Cut teachers.

Raise taxes.


It might come down to both those choices, but the Janesville School Board doesn’t appear ready to say how much of either it might be willing to approve.


The board will take another look at next year’s budget when it meets Tuesday. It faces the prospect of having to trim nearly $10 million in expenses in 2011-2012. It has already made some moves, approving larger minimum class sizes at the high schools and cutting an assistant principal.


Exactly how much money those moves will help the budget is not yet known.


Board member Kevin Murray wants the board to act sooner on big questions, such as taxes. He wants to give the administration an indication of how much money it will have for teachers’ salaries so a teacher-staffing plan can be developed in time for a March deadline.


Board member Lori Stottler agreed there should be urgency, but she believes there’s time.


Murray said Friday that the board should be talking now about the two major sources of money the board controls: taxes and the district’s “checking account,” the Fund 10 balance.


“We’ve got to get going,” Murray said. “I’m going to start asking the question of my fellow board members: ‘Where do you want to start?’”


Schulte and her staff, it would appear, have already been working on layoff scenarios.


“A lot of the work has been done preliminarily behind the scenes already,” Murray said.


The middle and elementary school staffs are being scrutinized for potential cuts, board President Bill Sodemann said, and “it’s going to probably raise some eyebrows.”


The question might come down to cutting particular programs or imposing an overall increase in class sizes, or a combination of those, Sodemann said.


Sodemann said he will ask the administration Tuesday for scenarios—what would be the savings if the student-teacher ratio was raised by two per classroom, for example.


Murray said layoffs


probably are unavoidable


next year, short of the politically unlikely prospect of a referendum to increase the tax burden.


Sodemann said state aid is unlikely to increase in the coming year, given a state budget deficit of $3 billion.


Stottler said she will propose a special meeting to discuss the budget in the weeks ahead.


ON THE AGENDA

The Janesville School Board meets at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Educational Services Center, 527 S. Franklin St.


Agenda items include:


-- A vote to send preliminary notices of nonrenewal, which could result in cutting four of the district’s 13 social workers starting next fall.


-- Review of a demographics report, which showed that the percentage of low-income children district-wide rose for the 14th straight year, to 43 percent in 2009-2010.


-- A closed-session review of Superintendent Karen Schulte’s performance and a vote on whether to offer Schulte a two-year contract starting in July with a one-year extension.


The board will also hold a special meeting at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday to discuss meeting-security procedures with a Janesville police sergeant.



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