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Will Janesville School Board tap reserves?

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FRANK J. SCHULTZ
March 30, 2011
— The Janesville School District's 2011-12 budget will be about $13.4 million short, according to the most current estimate.

The school board needs to plug that hole, and one way is to cut the budget. Cuts on the table include about 106 of the district's 822 teaching positions.


Superintendent Karen Schulte told a school board committee Monday that cutting 106 teachers would go too far and that students' education would suffer too much.


If only the board had a source of money, somewhere.


There is one source the board could tap. It's called the Fund 10 balance, a part of the district's budget that is used for a variety of purposes, including emergencies.


The school board Thursday will debate how much of that "fund balance" to use to plug the budget hole.


At a previous meeting, board member Kevin Murray proposed using $8 million. Murray said Tuesday he knew the board would not go for it, but he wanted to get the conversation started.


Board member DuWayne Severson has countered with a proposal to use $2.7 million.


Severson said he is confident that current board policy would allow the board to go no further than that, and he is not willing to use a penny more.


Murray said he'd like to push the number higher, but he wasn't willing to say by how much.


The balance is like a checkbook: It rises and falls as revenue is received and as bills are paid.


Murray said he's been told that the balance drops as low as $3 million at times during the year.


If the fund runs dry, the district must borrow to bridge the gap, something many local governments do. But the school district hasn't done it for many years.


Murray said he'd prefer not to have to borrow, but using the fund balance money would help avoid budget cuts, and that could help keep educational quality high.


"What's the lesser of two evils, really?" Murray said.


All nine board members will have a chance to vote on the issue Thursday night.


IF YOU GO

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


-- Adoption of a package of money-saving changes to the athletics budget, including higher fees to participate in sports and higher gate fees.


-- Adoption of higher enrollment, textbook and facility-use fees.


-- Discussion of district legal services, including whether to continue hiring a lawyer to serve as a district expulsion-hearing officer.


-- Presentation of the budget for 2011-12 capital projects for information technology.


-- Approval of Superintendent Karen Schulte's 2011-13 contract.



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