The Boscobel School Board expressed non-binding support for attempting a second referendum in April during a Committee of the Whole meeting held Monday evening, though it appears the group is leaning toward changing the scope and direction of their funding request.
The board has until January 26, 2016 to pass a referendum resolution for the April ballot.
Board President Todd Miller began the meeting by asking the board and those members of the public present to discuss the possibility of a resolution and referendum. He suggested that it be a two-part request – one for operational funding and a second for improvements at the high school – before asking consulting business manager Carol Dyer for input on operational funding needs.
Dyer was quick to suggest that the board pursue an April referendum to avoid incurring additional costs to hold a special election. She also suggested the board consider purchasing a budget forecasting model from Baird and Associates for $2,250.
Dyer demonstrated how the model can be used to project revenue outlooks based on what is known about the state budget allocations for education. She also demonstrated how it would reflect changes as the board trims the budget.
“If it (the referendum) doesn’t pass, layoffs are probably a reality,” Dyer warned.
The district’s revenues have declined by $1.429 million over the last ten years, while expenses have only decreased by $279,356 over the same period, Dyer explained.
“Only a very small amount of expenses are something you can directly control,” Dyer said. “The rest is mandated.”
Miller asked Dyer if she could provide what the district would need beyond the levy to cover operating costs. She responded that she and the administrative staff were just beginning to work on wages, so she could not provide that number with certainty projecting out from the current school year. With or without a passed referendum, the district is locked into the employment costs for 2015-2016 since the contracts are already approved. Dyer reiterated that without the referendum passing, the board would have no choice but to look at layoffs as part of their effort to balance the budget.
After a discussion of the district’s levy history and how debt service impacts the levy, Operations Advisor Steve Wacker suggested a much different plan for the referendum.
Wacker proposed pursuing a two-part referendum, suggesting using language of “up to $500,000 per year” for ‘X’ number of years for operations while also pursuing a $12 million referendum to build a new wing onto the existing high school; repair the maintenance issues at the high school; ‘retire’ the Rock school, elementary school, and district office buildings; and remodel the remaining building so that the district has four gymnasiums and community space.
“A district our size cannot handle five buildings,” Wacker said. “The expense is killing us.”
Wacker has already begun work with an architect working pro bono to develop a concept for the board along with estimates on the cost of the project.
“I’m not okay with paying just to keep it going as is,” Wacker said.
Wacker pointed out that by bringing all the schools to one site, ancillary benefits such as a reduced need for support staff would likely be felt, further aiding the district’s financial picture.
Wacker will continue to work with the architect with a goal of bringing 3-D drawings and cost estimates the regular December meeting. That meeting has been tentatively changed to Dec. 14 at 6:30 p.m.