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Janesville School Board finance committee to reopen discussion on school closure, athletics fees

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Catherine W. Idzerda
March 26, 2011
— Tough financial times mean turning over every stone—and then turning them over again—to make sure you have considered all your options.

That’s what Janesville School Board member and finance committee Chairwoman Lori Stottler thinks.


At Monday’s finance committee meeting, Stottler will ask the committee to reconsider several contentious budget cutting measures, including increasing athletic fees and closing a school next year.


“My feeling—and I could be standing completely solo on this one—is that we shouldn’t be holding off until next year because it’s a lot of work,” Stottler said.


At a meeting March 4, the district’s boundary committee decided to delay closing a school until the 2012-13 school year.


Boundary committee chairman Greg Ardrey, who is also a school board member, said he did not think there was enough time to close a school for the 2011-12 school year. The committee set a deadline of Sept. 1 to decide which of the following schools should be closed: Jackson, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Wilson.


Stottler thinks that it’s an issue that should be reconsidered, especially since the district’s $14 million deficit won’t be going away any time soon. In addition, Gov. Scott Walker’s budget does not allow school districts to raise taxes beyond a certain amount without going to referendum.


“The community will not support a referendum if we can’t show that we’ve gone to the nth degree to find money,” Stottler said.


Under Stottler’s plan, one elementary school would be consolidated into the other neighborhood schools in the 2011-12 school year. The building could be used for Rock River, Tagos and Tate charter schools.


If needed, a second elementary school would be closed in the 2012-13 school year.


The savings would be about $500,000.


At the meeting March 4, Ardrey said he wanted to get more community input before closing a school. He clarified those comments Friday.


Community input, of course, means input by parents, Ardrey said. But the committee also won’t let its decision be guided solely by the parent group that shouted the loudest. Ardrey also hopes to hear from community agencies.


Another reason for the delay?


“There’s a lot of logistics involved,” Ardrey said.


Would kids have to be bused? Would there be room for programs that serve physically, cognitively and emotionally disabled children? Would the actual cost savings be? What staff would be needed?


“We would have to make those decisions before school was out,” Ardrey said.


Ardrey acknowledged that the district is facing some tough decisions.


“There are no good choices,” Ardrey said.


A discussion on generating revenue with athletics is also on Monday night’s agenda.


The last time Stottler brought up raising the fee to participate in athletics, about 100 people showed up at the board meeting, she said.


At the time, she came to see the increase in fees as a “double hit” on the middle class.


But times have changed.


“I’m not sure that the district can afford $683—or whatever it is—for a student to play golf,” Stottler said.


The finance committee will also discuss raising enrollment, textbook and facility fees.



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