A citizens group threatened to recall all members of the Iola-Scandinavia School Board at the board’s finance committee meeting March 14.
Unless the board promises not to take any action on the 2011-12 budget and promises not to act on the layoff notices, “I am willing to spearhead a recall for every member on the board,” Dennis Kennealy said.
Kennealy suggested that the school board look beyond cutting teachers to help balance the budget.
“There’s a huge financial issue with this school district,” he said, “$665,000 for administration is a real number.”
“Our enrollment is down and our administrative pay is up,” said another audience member.
“Administrative pay and benefits has less impact on the district’s taxpayers than teacher pay and benefits,” replied District Administrator Joe Price.
“I am all for keeping teachers,” stated another audience member. “But in hard times, there are choices that have to be made.”
“All of us on the board are taxpayers,” stated board President Tom Opperman. “How are we going to get good teachers if we don’t offer competitive pay? Most schools pay 100 percent of benefits.”
Kennealy suggested the board take a new look at things. “Get a community board and open up the books,” he said.
“We always do the budget the most efficient way,” Opperman explained. “We have been dealing with unions, so we can’t always do everything we want.”
Members of the audience asked if layoff notices would be issued according to seniority. Will the absence of collective bargaining change things?
“It’s all hypothetical right now,” Price said. “We are honoring our current teacher contract.” He noted the contract expires at the end of June.
At the February board meeting, Price had presented what he called “a conservative estimate of zero percent per student increase.” That would have left the I-S School District with an estimated $150,000 deficit.
“Quite a bit has changed in the past few weeks,” Price explained. “The governor has proposed a 5.5 percent decrease in per pupil revenues.” With the drastic decrease in state aid, the district now faces an estimated $655,000 deficit for the 2011-12 school year, according to Price.
To counteract the deficit, Price has proposed reducing the Other Post Employment Benefits contributions by $150,000. By July 1, the district will save about $152,000 when the teachers (statewide) begin to pay 5.8 percent of their salaries into the Wisconsin Retirement System.
Again, Kennealy brought up the administrative salaries.
“How can you talk to me about a $500,000 deficit when you ask for more money in your contract?” Kennealy said.
He called for the board to look at other ways to cut the budget. He pointed out that there is a huge endowment fund for the I-S Community Fitness & Aquatic Center, there is money in Fund 10 balance, and the district could outsource food service and bus services.
“The endowment fund was donated and it was set up to be run by the school district,” Price indicated.
Board Treasurer Bill Peterson noted that Fund 10 is only for emergencies.
Opperman recalled that the district had tried outsourcing the food service and “it was a disaster.” He also explained that the district would not benefit from outsourcing the bus service, noting that transportation director Tom Hoyord serves as a mechanic and as a bus driver.