SHULLSBURG – The Shullsburg School Board of Education decided that Act 32 would not work for their district at their Aug. 31 special board meeting to consider possible options for referendum.
District Administrator Loras Kruser stated that the 2016-2017 unaudited budget had a beginning balance of $829,430.34 and an ending balance of $760,516.68, with a deficit of $68,939. Since the state has not finalized their budget he could only guesstimate what it would be but stated there could be a decrease in the 2017-2018 budget due to declining enrollment.
“We lost 17 kids in the district,” Kruser explained and said there has been some coming into the district as well but they wouldn’t have a definite number until the third Friday in September.
This coming year the Shullsburg school district will be debt free and they are looking at a number of needs throughout the district, both operationally and to the physical building. The board has been discussing whether to use Act 32 for energy efficiency projects, to exceed the revenue limit or to go to referendum for debt. Lisa Voisin from Robert W. Baird and Company, a finance company, explained the different options to school could use.
If the school district goes to referendum for debt that allows the district borrowing authority while exceeding the revenue limit does not. Exceeding the revenue limit only allows the school to levy for a certain amount each year. Referendum for debt can only be used for facility projects while exceeding the revenue limit could be used for both operational and facility projects. Act 32 is energy efficiency money but is time sensitive. It is unknown if money for Act 32 will be in this year’s state budget. The deadline for schools to decide if they would like to use Act 32 is Dec. 31, 2017.
Kruser was leery about using Act 32. One reason was because he was afraid the community would petition the idea and make the school go to referendum.
“I think the impact of people’s decision is based on what is happening in the city,” Jacinda Gunnell said.
Voisin said they would adopt a resolution but would need to wait 30 days to see if the community would like to send in a petition. Only 20 percent of the people who voted in the last election are needed to sign a petition, which would be about 94 people.
Voisin said that maintenance referendums are easier to pass because there is something physical that people can see that needs to be changed. Operational referendums are a little more difficult because the community might not understand exactly for what the money is being used.
Paul Jaworski, an account executive with Schneider Electric, an energy savings company, spoke to the board more about Act 32. They went all around the school and took pictures of projects that might need to be done including a new boiler, fans in the gymnasium and some new lighting. Jaworski said that DPI (Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction) checks the list of projects that a district would like to have done to make sure they qualify as energy efficiency projects. Jaworski estimated that all the items he and his team took pictures of would roughly cost the school $3.5 million.
Kruser said that the district needs to get a project list together and have a project audit of the district before anything could be definitely decided.
Jaworski said that if they would like to do Act 32, the district would need to get started right away by asking for RFQs (request for qualifications). Kruser asked if the district went through with everything and they either decided to not go ahead with Act 32 or if the money wasn’t in the budget or if the community petitioned them, would it cost them anything. Jaworski said there would be a $30,000 fee.
“If we go with Act 32, then it affects our ability to levy. If we don’t know what the costs are then we may or may not be able to get Act 32, then we have $30,000 that we can’t afford because we are already in a deficit,” Amy Charles said.
Charles added that Act 32 might not be a good move for the board as they still want operational dollars and Act 32 would not be able to help with that.
“With the stuff going on with the city, I don’t want to add to that right now. If we get petitioned, then we should have just gone to referendum in the first place,” Gunnell said.
“I would like to structure the two questions so it won’t raise the school portion of the taxes. I am very leery about a two-part referendum because people will be like ‘Well, I’ll do this but I won’t do that’”, Charles added.
Eugene Uehling stated that people outside the boardroom really don’t understand the school finances. With a two-part question, they can explain both situations, gives more clarity.
“We haven’t done any major projects lately. We are trying to keep up. We can’t hire teachers and other schools are poaching the ones we have because we don’t have the money to keep them in Shullsburg. Having a part time administrator doesn’t help because it doesn’t all get done in two days. If we want to change the culture of this district, it will cost you some money,” Kruser said.
“There are how many additional regulations on teachers with educator effectiveness. People don’t know that. Teachers know but there are so many regulations on education. We are still living within our means, the way our means are calculated has been changed and that is the problem. We haven’t done anything differently but the way we have been able to earn our living has changed. It is a big problem,” Charles stated.
The board agreed that Act 32 was not going to work for the district. Kruser mentioned that they would need to fine-tune a list of projects and operational expenditures and the total cost before deciding what referendum option would be best for the district in the future.
The Shullsburg School Board of Education also approved:
-Alaina Markham as Pep Club Advisor.
-Billie Upton as National Honor Society Advisor.
-Kelly Jerry and John Walker as Special Education Aides.
-Kari Beth Cernek to fill the Jr. High Math/Science position.