Monday, March 1, 2004
Special Meeting
High School Study Hall
7:00 p.m.

Board Members present: Anderson, Taylor, Pitts, Peach, Pronold, Limmex, Caraway, Nelson, Roske, Megan Sipes (student representative)
Board Members absent: N/A
Administrators present: Benson, Hoffman, Kaukl, Briehl, Richardson, Palm-Leis
Others:  Jim Rossing, Kathy Rossing, Harry Pulvermacher, Todd Miller, Linda Kettner, Dan Kettner, James Thering, Shari Graffunder, Nancy Kollatz, Mark Berg, Wanda Esch, Kathy Straka, Joannie Harrington, Lynn Foster, Leslie Shultz, Bridget Roberts, Pat Christianson, Ron Troxel, Jim Krey, Deb Miller, Derek Miller, Jeff Foster, Bev Smegielski, Sue Quale, Ann Bullock, Marnie Dresser, Gary Nachreiner, Tim Eastlick, Sue Heiser, Danielle Heiser, Heather Olson, Scott Muller, Keith Symon, Leah Hargraves, Carol Cady-Severson, Terry Severson, Don Greenwood, Marty Grell, Peggy Tennant, Phil Manske, Pat Ederer, Tom Wermuth, Andrea Sullivan, Joan Killian-Ikeler, Lisa Bowen, Tootie Pulvermacher, Mary Lurvey, Rick Bakkum, Mike Miller, Michael Whaley, Dan Tate, Michael Langer, Peter DeWaard, Wolfgang Iausly, Ralph Ruhland, Tom Yentz, Jan Anderson, Jim Schwingle, Rich Schoenberg, Sue Sadler, Colleen Faherty, Al Ikeler, Joseph Jennings, Andrea Jennings, Jeff Johnson, Eric Ferguson, Lisa Roelke, Mike Frank, Herman Kaldenberg, Sue Gereau, Irene Clark, Emily Roske, Rachel Kuhse, Monica Reeve, Jean Alt, Rose Ellen Schneider, Sue Kleinschmidt, Rowena Symon Roske, Kathy Peetz, Representative Steve Freese, Paula Wedige (Administrative Assistant), David Giffey (Home News)

Anderson opened the meeting.  He noted that 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.

Anderson noted that at the February 19 Board meeting, the Board received from administration a list of recommended cuts for 2004-05 and that a revised version of that recommendation will be the focus of tonight’s discussion.  Anderson added that the agenda is informational only and that no action will be taken at this meeting.

Discuss District Policy #110 – Educational Philosophy and Goals
Anderson read Policy #110 and noted that it should be used as a framework when contemplating budget cuts.

Overview of the Impact of Year 1 (2004-05) Proposed Administrative Budget Cuts
A revised version of the February 19 administrative recommendation for 2004-05 budget cuts was reviewed and discussed as follows:

Items #1-3 – Administration:  No cuts were recommended for 2004-05.

It was noted that there was a reduction of one administrative position prior to the 2003-04 school year.  Current administrative contracts extend through the end of the 2004-05 school year with a May 2004 deadline date for non-renewal beyond that time.

Items #5-8 – Extra Curricular:  The items recommended for budget cuts were the co-curricular (non-athletic) programs, middle school and 9th grade athletics, and the late bus service for after-school programs.

Several Board members noted that they have received many calls pertaining to public concern about cutting athletics.  There were comments that middle school sports could be funded in the community or through clubs.  Anderson noted that the law (Title IX) states that there must be equal athletic opportunities provided by the district for boys and girls.  The discussion turned to athletic fees and how much to charge.  There was also discussion about fees for non-athletic extra-curricular activities.  Sue Heiser made a request to maintain cheerleading and continue to charge fees.

Wolfgang Iausly asked whether there had been student forums regarding the budget deficit situation.  Benson noted that he and Kaukl had talked with high school students on February 20 because of their questions and concerns, that documentation and information from the February 19 Board meeting was shared, and that there was discussion about the referendum failing.  Hoffman added that he spoke with middle school students to dispel rumors that cuts had already been made. 

Iausly asked that negotiations be re-opened as a way to cover the deficit.  Benson noted that Iausly’s facts were inaccurate and asked that he produce to Benson the documentation he was referring to regarding insurance and benefits.  Anderson noted that the district is required by law to offer a minimum 3.8% total package for salary and benefits for teachers.  Anderson explained that under this law, a reduction in the cost of benefits would be given as an increase in salary.  Anderson explained that the option for TSA monies to be paid to an employee who does not take insurance is cheaper than paying family coverage, that these dollars are paid as part of the QEO package, that the amount for the TSA payment is now capped, and that this option has been grandfathered so there can be no new enrollees in this option.

Ralph Ruhland noted that during this budget deficit, if we pay teachers more money, we will end up with fewer teachers.  He believes the district can combine enough classes to save $500,000 and that class sizes should be increased.  He requested that negotiations be re-opened, that there was no need to cut sports and arts, and that user fees could be implemented.  Mary Lurvey commented that the FFA organization is part of the agricultural education and not an extracurricular program.  Ron Troxel noted that it is just an assumption that the majority of open enrollment applicants are because of the feared loss of sports.  Herman Kaldenberg commented on the increase in property taxes. 

Representative Steve Freese noted that the QEO law was designed to help with increasing costs.  He encouraged the Board to also invite Representative Kind, Senator Kohl, and Senator Feingold to Board meetings and to request funding for mandates.  Anderson encouraged those in attendance to contact legislators in Madison and Washington.  Michael Whaley noted that although the minimum salary and benefit package is 3.8%, the teacher’s union could agree to take less than the minimum. 

Items #10-16 - Support Staff:  The items recommended for budget cuts were a portion of the technology budget, a middle school teacher assistant (50%), a high school study hall supervisor, a middle school part time assistant (20%), and a day custodian.

It was noted that the elementary computer skills teacher could help in the technology area to provide technical support and could also be used to provide elementary library services since an elementary librarian is recommended as a budget cut.  There was some concern expressed regarding the reduction of the elementary librarian.  Benson explained that the reduction of the high school study hall supervisor would cause the need for high school teaching staff to monitor study hall.  By moving some tech. ed. classes into the business ed. department, the tech. ed. department would assist with study hall supervision. 

Items #18-35 – Teaching/Instruction:  The items recommended for budget cuts were an elementary EEN teacher, a middle school foreign language teacher (50%), a French teacher (40%), a high school English teacher (50%), a 3rd grade teacher, an elementary librarian, and an agriculture teacher (20%). 

Palm-Leis responded to questions pertaining to the proposed cut of an elementary EEN teacher by stating that the decrease in the number of students needing learning disability services allows the district to serve their needs with one less teacher. 

In regards to the proposed reduction of one 3rd grade teacher since the current 2nd grade class is small, it was clarified that the Board has not yet taken action on any cuts and no decision has been made on which school would experience the reduction.  It was noted that students could be moved out of one attendance center to attend another.  Concerned was expressed that this cut would be too close to kids and that it is a mistake to move kids out of their community for a one year savings.  Pronold agreed that he preferred cuts farthest away from the classroom as possible and supports cutting a secretarial position in the first year.

Some attendees expressed concern over cutting an elementary EEN teaching position and encouraged reconsideration of this item.  Concern was also expressed for reducing an English teaching position by 50%, noting class size should be smaller for literature and writing classes.  In addition, some attendees were concerned about cutting the French program and leaving only one foreign language option.  When asked about the recommendation to reduce the agriculture teacher position by 20%, Kaukl responded that this could be accomplished since class numbers are down.

There was discussion of closing one elementary building or one class at each grade level at the Spring Green Elementary.  Those in favor noted that students would be assigned to alternative elementary sites in the district but there would be no reduction in services, it would eliminate the need to cut all or part of so many different programs, and enrollment declines may necessitate the closing of one building.  Those against the closing of an elementary building stated it is a drastic action that would cause long term problems in one town. 

The idea of using more money from fund balance was proposed.  Some were in favor; some were not. 

Benson noted that projections show declining enrollment for the next three years and that the revenue cap formula hurts River Valley because a large piece of the formula is a calculation based on enrollment.  Don Greenwood noted concerned with cutting programs which could lead to people leaving the district or using open enrollment, both of which cause our enrollment to decline further.

Items #37-41 – Auxiliary: The items recommended for budget cuts were the after-school tutor program (A-Star), one afternoon bus route, the school fair, and a portion of the building budgets.

Todd Miller asked why an earlier potential cut in transportation of $125,000 had now been reduced to one afternoon bus route.  It was noted that with such a major cut in transportation services, bus rides for students would be 1.5 to 2 hours one way.  Miller believes that parents should take more responsibility to get students to school, and we could cut $200,000 to $300,000 in transportation costs.  Benson noted that state law requires transportation, including transportation for students who may live close to school but must cross a dangerous highway or intersection.  Miller asked parents to take transportation into their own hands instead of us cutting programs to the point where schools are not worth walking to. 

Benson noted that the recommendation from administration comes with much reluctance and sadness about the potential impact on the quality of River Valley schools and noted that the administration wants to avoid collateral damage as much as possible.  None of these proposed cuts is an investment in maintaining River Valley pride, uniqueness, integrity, tradition, and the administration makes the recommendation but finds it hard to use support it at the same time.  Eric Ferguson asked the Board to not “water down” so many different programs and to keep something that would have people saying “I can go to Spring Green for that.”

Items #43-45 – Revenue:  The items recommended as revenue sources were parking fees and athletic and co-curricular fees.

Besides the recommended fees, there were many ideas offered at the meeting pertaining to increased revenue and voluntary donations/contributions:  supply fees, parents providing own transportation, using a foundation entity such as alumni donations, expanding funding from booster clubs, voluntary contributions of time from coaches and  Board members, voluntary waiver of TSA option by teachers, voluntary donations by community members who voted for the referendum, donations from area businesses who have a vested interest in the quality of our school system, pledge drives, re-opening negotiations to provide lower insurance for district employees, fees for use of school facilities, and the sale of school forest land.  It was noted that the selling of the school forest land would have to be acted on at the annual meeting.

When asked if funds generated through a foundation would negatively impact revenue received from the state, Benson stated that he believed that if it’s spent in the year it is collected, there would be no negative impact.  Nelson voiced her concern with fees.  She stated that we need public education for all, not education for those who can afford it. 

There was concern expressed that discussion has been focusing on cuts rather than creative ideas such as those for raising revenue, asking parents to provide own transportation, and decentralization of the district.

Review and Discuss Possible Revisions to Administrative Recommendation for Year 1 (2004-05) Budget Cuts
It was noted that this item was discussed in combination with the previous agenda item.

Discuss Year 2 (2005-06) Budget Cuts
No discussion.

Discuss Possibility of Future Referendum
Wolfgang Iausly commented that the voters said “no” the first time.  Todd Miller thinks a second referendum would fail unless you give voters the option to restore cuts and give them concrete details.  He added that the chance of a referendum failing without a reduction in administration is high.  Pronold and Roske agreed that the Board should look for first year cuts.  When asked if he supported the first referendum, Pronold responded that as it was worded, he did not.

Benson noted that although a list of cuts for 2005-06 has not been proposed by administration, it will include a proposal to eliminate one administrative position. 

Paul Cummings voiced concerned about positions and programs not being reinstated once they are cut.  Peter DeWaard feels that some programs, like sports, can be done outside of school or in clubs, but not education and especially not special education. 

Anderson noted that the Board needs support from the public before a second referendum is held and believes we need to make cuts for 2004-05.  Benson agrees that after hearing from many people and since the failure of the referendum, we need to make cuts for 2004-05, which could involve increasing fees or using more of fund balance.  Benson encourages a second referendum to be held prior to determining cuts for 2005-06.

Peach moved to adjourn at 10:50 p.m.  Roske seconded. Motion carried.

Submitted by Paula Wedige For Deborah Nelson, School District Clerk

03/10/08 pw