Opinion Matters

With Gazette Opinion Editor Greg Peck

What should school board do to balance budget?

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Greg Peck
Friday, August 26, 2011

I’ve been among those at the Gazette who’ve spent time this week discussing with school officials the details related to how the Janesville School District’s financial picture suddenly turned brighter. I’ve often been left scratching my head.

Here’s some of what we do know. The district had $2.2 million more in its fund balance at the end of fiscal year 2010-11 than expected. The school board authorized spending that much of the reserves a year ago, but the district did not need to use the money because of unexpected revenues. The district also had an overall $975,000 gain for the fiscal year.

Superintendent Karen Schulte tried to explain the details and dispel “myths” in a column in today’s Gazette (you can’t find it online). Did that help you understand the situation?

Some will argue that the district can’t manage its financial books or that it somehow has been hiding money. Is either accusation fair?

The district still faces a budget gap of $2.1 million for 2011-12. The school board already agreed to tap the fund balance for $4 million. Some residents, no doubt, will point out that because the balance is $2.2 million higher than previously expected, the board could simply drain another $2.1 million and solve the problem.

Others will argue that with another projected $9 million budget gap expected in 2012-13, the teachers union, the Janesville Education Association, should reopen its contract, agree to pay 5.8 percent of salaries toward pensions, and save the district $2.3 million. The savings would total more like $3 million if two smaller employee unions did likewise.

In Wednesday’s Gazette, JEA President Dave Parr suggested the school board should save the fund balance to ease the 2012-13 budget crunch and raise taxes now, which would improve the district’s future taxing authority.

Some observers wonder if the JEA is holding out hope that Gov. Scott Walker will be recalled and that Democrats will regain control of the Legislature and rescind collective bargaining limits and union concessions passed in Walker’s budget repair bill before the JEA’s contract expires in a couple of years.

Do you think that’s part of the reluctance to make concessions? Is that idea is realistic or delusional?

Which direction do you think the school board should go to balance this year’s budget? We’ll share our perspectives in our editorial Sunday.

Greg Peck can be reached at (608) 755-8278 or gpeck@gazettextra.com. Or follow him on Twitter or Facebook

Last updated: 9:59 am Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Greg Peck can be reached at (608) 755-8278 or gpeck@gazettextra.com. Or follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

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