By TRICIA HILL
The Boscobel School Board held a special meeting on Tuesday night to hear the results of their audit report. However, due to the recent petitions that were handed in on Dec. 18 to board clerk Barb Puckett to prevent the school from borrowing up to $10 million and to push the board to move forward with a referendum, it seemed to be the most heated discussion on the agenda.
The auditor gave her opinions of the audit report that was put together by district business manager Cherryl Knowles. It was reported that the school has a net position of governmental activities at $8,767,597. Out of that money about three quarters is from investments in capital assets, for a total of $6.6 million. The school’s general fund balance was very similar in 2013-2014 school year as the previous year. The school had a total liability of $24,496.
“This is just our current liabilities or things that we owe in the near future, not our long term debt,” said auditor Debra Welsh. “That compared to last year’s $31,898. Basically your financial position for the general fund, which includes your special revenue fund, was very similar to the previous year.”
Welsh also pointed out that in the 2013-14 school year the district had a total fund balance of $2.8 million, which was $10,000 less than what the school had in 2012-2013. The change in the financial position was a loss of $11,000 during the 2013-14 school year. However, it had been projected as a larger deficit, so that was already figured in. The district as a whole has a total of $2.8 million in their general fund balance, which in the auditor’s opinion is a solid fund balance.
“In our point of view your fund balance is supposed to help you pay your bills without having to borrow,” Welsh said. “We suggest that you have a two to three month fund balance to help you to actually not have to borrow short term for operating expenses. Boscobel currently has 3.36 months, so we would consider that to be fiscally solid.”
At the end of the auditor’s review, Welsh was happy to tell the board that as of June 30, 2014, the school was financially sound, the books were in order and the audit company gave a good opinion, which is a good thing in the eyes of DPI.
ACT 32 vs. Referendum
The school board added the Act 32 borrowing to the agenda based on the review of the petitions that were turned in a week prior to Christmas Day to board clerk Barb Puckett. Puckett met with petitioners Hans Steele, Steve Peer, Troy Brechler, Lisa Rounds and fellow board members Roger Knoble and Tom Pelz last Wednesday morning.
“I had went through the petitions prior and threw out about 25 that were forgeries, which can be fined,” Puckett said. “Some people did not have physical addresses of where they lived. I had talked to Arlie Harris and the sheet that had went around was apparently an old one that didn't have where they could mark town, city, or village. I was told that all of them that were not marked should have been thrown out.”
There was a total of 405 signatures handed in to Puckett and after she threw out 24 there were not enough signatures to pass the petition. However, due to recent additions to the total number of registered voters, the number has since changed to 377.8 needed for the board to have to move forward with a referendum vote.
“I have talked to Mike over half a dozen times and every time it changed a little. On the final day to record he told us once again the number changed a little bit more,” Operations Manager, Steve Wacker said. “It is really hard for our district to come down with a number when we split townships. Mike believed he had the number down now.”
When the numbers were done and the petitions were read last week, they were told that the petitioners would need 394 signatures to push forward with a vote for a referendum. However, due to the recent number that was brought to the attention of the board it was asked by President Todd Miller to have one more get together to review the signatures to see if there are anymore that need to be thrown out and a decision will be made from there and he wanted it done prior to the next board meeting.
While there were both people for and against the ACT 32 project moving forward in attendance at the meeting, it was clear that the people for it felt that the petitioners were more worried about their taxes going up and having their two cents put in than they were the safety of the students in attendance at Boscobel High School.
“Some of the things that you missed Steve Peer when the H&H guys came and gave a nice presentation. They came and talked about all these things and there was an opportunity to talk about the things that need to be fixed,” Kim Trumm said. “Hopefully, it’s not going to cost $7.8 million or $10 million and hopefully when they put it out for bids I hope it goes out to the community for business. But that was the time that people should have came and started asking questions, instead of waiting until they say, ‘Okay, let’s go ahead and do this.’ These guys are ready to go and now we’re holding on and the ACT 32 money is going to disappear and we’re not going to be able to do this.”
H&H employee Josh Kaurich explained that most of the things on the list were requested by the district. He wanted the community to be aware that they did not come in and look the buildings over and decide to add things that they did not need. He explained that there are many things in the building that are years behind and are at their max life use.
“This is the one financial lever that they have given schools since 2009 to tap into,” Kaurich said. “If you look into it, you will notice about a quarter of the schools have gone down this road. I think this will be the second school in Wisconsin that has gone and ran through a petition. That is fine democracy to do it, obviously, but you have to be educated as a lot has gone into this. Learn about what we’re doing. There is a lot of good meat behind what were doing; it is not all just milk.”
If everything would have went as planned, H&H wanted to start getting bids now so they could start work in the summer. The district has only until June 30 to move forward or drop the whole plan. If the school waits until June to get the bids, they will be looking at higher bids than what they could be getting if they started asking for bids now. H&H is currently working on bidding work because there is better pricing when they bid out in the winter than in the summer months.
Teacher urges action
“I understand where (the petitioners) are coming from, but I understand what the people need to know. I understand when the horses go out the door it is too late to shut the door,” teacher Doug Zimpel said. “We have a timeline that we have to work with. This isn’t something you can just go up and bandaid. We can’t go in there and work on a little bit at a time; that’s not going to work, as it is a big project. Everyone in this town needs to understand that, that we can’t wait forever. The money is available. You need to go back to the petitioners and explain to them that this is our timeline, because I don't want our schools to close. We have good teachers and good kids and it is our obligation to keep these schools going and keep them in the best shape possible for everyone in this community.”
At the end of the discussion, Puckett was told to set a date to review the petitions again prior to January’s regular meeting. Miller did explain to the audience, that if the ACT 32 was dropped and put to a referendum all of the work that needs to be done would be held off for another year.
The meeting then convened into closed session to discuss administrative evaluation and to discuss compensation of specific adminsitrators. When the board reconvened into open session, there was no action taken that needed to be made public.