Whitewater School District officials approve cuts
Close to 30 parents and educators attended a public hearing Thursday on the board’s proposal to address the deficit in its 2011-12 budget. District Business Manager Nathan Jaeger presented a list of about 18 cuts expected to nearly offset the lower revenue and higher expenses projected for next year.
Board member Daniel McCrea was only one to vote against the measure. The approved reductions leaves the district with an estimated $4,500 shortfall, Jaeger said.
Though the board passed the cuts, it left open the possibility for reconsidering some of the reductions once the district’s fiscal outlook comes more into focus.
The board met in closed session following its public hearing to discuss bids from health insurance carriers. Jaeger said depending on the provider they choose, they could see additional savings that give the board more financial flexibility.
One of the items that could be near the top of that list is saving the boy’s tennis program, which was eliminated as one of the district’s cost-saving measures. A handful of parents at Thursday’s meeting expressed disappointment in dropping the sport, arguing the athletics department could keep the program by making cuts across the board.
Girl’s golf also was eliminated, along with one varsity football coach.
“We’re saying, ‘necessities only,’” Athletics Director Jeff Behrens said. “Teams are only getting what they need to run their program. For me to try and go back and pull money from every program, that’s going to impact a lot more students than the nine we have in our tennis program.”
Some of the largest reductions include:
n Restructuring staff in the physical education department, saving about $90,000.
n Opening up contracts to contribute to the Wisconsin Retirement System and health insurance, cutting $80,000.
n A 5 percent reduction in all building and central office budgets, saving $36,000.
The board also passed reductions in buildings and grounds spending, eliminating elementary building leadership teams and reducing diversified services.
McCrea didn’t elaborate on his vote against the plan, but earlier in the meeting, he expressed concern that the board wasn’t provided with more information for restructuring staff in fifth-grade band. He said his intent was to preserve band, but he thought that might give the board a chance to save other items on the list of cuts.
That opportunity could still present itself, depending on health insurance costs, utilities and even the buildings and grounds director. The board eliminated that position, which McCrea said pays about $65,000 annually with benefits.
Jaeger said the district could contract with someone independently to draft a capital plan, but it’s difficult to determine how much that would cost.
The school system has a “laundry list” of capital needs, Jaeger said. Among those is resurfacing the high school track.
Jaeger recommended that be one of the main priorities, based on the track’s ability to raise revenue by hosting meets.