Board Members present:
Anderson, Limmex, Pitts, Nelson, Roske, Pronold, Smith, Peach, Caraway
Board Members absent: N/A
Administrators present: Benson, Mahoney, Hoffman, Briehl, Richardson, Kaukl
Others present: Todd Miller, Warren Hoyer, Dee Swenson, Michael Langer, Jack Taylor, Paul Cummings, David Wade, Jennifer Kraemer, Karin Miller, Ron Troxel, Everett Bullock, Ann Bullock, Nancy Maxwell, Jan Anderson, Don Greenwood, Addie Greenwood, Eric Ferguson, Mary Dalton, Max Savage, Mike Miller, Steve Emerson, Karen Steindorf, Susan Gereau, Bob Faherty, Robin Reid, Rose Ellen Schneider, Dale Hottmann, Bridget Roberts, Tony Cavagnetto, Bob Holding (Home News), Paula Wedige (Administrative Assistant)
Anderson opened the meeting. He noted that there was an amended agenda and the meeting had been properly noticed and notice had been provided to the appropriate media and each School Board Member. Pitts moved to proceed with the legal meeting. Peach seconded. Motion carried.
Referendum Timeline (District Deficit Reduction
Benson noted that the agenda had been amended to encourage public attendance and discussion on this topic. He provided a brief overview of the district budget deficit: $500,000 deficit in 2004-05; and $1 million deficit in 2005-06. Benson stated that the Board has been discussing the need for a February 2004 referendum to fund these amounts and has also discussed what further cuts in staff and programs would be needed if the referendum fails. Benson asked those in attendance to ask questions and offer ideas and comments. At an upcoming meeting, the Board will be taking action on the exact wording of the referendum question and the list of potential cuts if the referendum fails.
Todd Miller voiced frustration that the Board has yet to take action on how to proceed. He questioned the legality of the agenda posted for tonights meeting pertaining to closed session and the open meetings law. Miller retracted his further involvement in the Referendum Fact Committee because the Committee never gave the Board specific directive. Benson clarified that the role of the Referendum Fact Committee has been advisory in nature and has encouraged public input and ideas for resolving the budget deficit. He noted that the purpose of tonights meeting is for public input and discussion and not for the Board to take any action and that closed session discussion of ranking programs may involve discussing teacher performance.
Ron Troxel voiced concern with the decrease of teacher positions to 50% on the list of potential cuts and concern of the districts ability to replace teachers on a 50% basis should vacancies become available. It was pointed out that staff who are layed off would be eligible for unemployment.
There was discussion about whether the referendum question should cover one year or two years and whether it would be on a recurring or non-recurring basis. There was some public discouragement about using a strategy where there would be additional referendum votes every 42 days if the first one failed.
Mahoney noted that declining enrollment is hurting the River Valley School District. Michael Langer voiced his opinion that people dont want to pay more in taxes. Ron Troxel responded that he doesnt buy the argument that people cant afford more taxes and is tired of people picking on our teachers.
Benson noted that there are upcoming sessions in all communities in the district to continue the process of educating the public about the issues surrounding the budget deficit and the referendum.
Jan Swenson stated her preference that the administrators take the same contract offer as the teachers. Dale Hottmann asked the Board how golf was put on the list of potential cuts. Dave Wade noted that the Board is asking for input and that the public has elected them to address problems and to let them do their job.
The list of potential budget cuts and impact statements was discussed as well as whether to make cuts before or after the referendum. Todd Miller stated his objection with the Board going into closed session later during this meeting to discuss and rank potential cuts.
Don Greenwood pointed out the funding is a complicated issue but that funding has to come from somewhere. He stated that Wisconsin is consistently at the top in ACT tests and we need to continue commitment to funding education.
Consideration & Action
to Adjourn to Closed Session Pursuant to Wisconsin Statute 19.85(1)(c)
for Discussion of Ranked List of Potential Budget Cuts
Peach moved to adjourn to closed session at 10:25 p.m. pursuant to Wisconsin Statute 19.85(1)(c). Roske seconded. Polled vote was 9-0 in the affirmative. Motion carried.
Submitted by Paula Wedige For Deborah Nelson, School District Clerk