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School Board sets Sept. 14 referendum

Deficit could grow to more than $1.09 million by 2014-15

July 14, 2010 | 08:52 AM
Williams Bay — Numbers referred to as "preliminary projections" are, according to School District Administrator Fred Vorlop, problematic.

But on Monday night, he said these figures "in essence address the district's problems," or the size of increasing school district's deficit. According to one projection, the estimated revenue for the district in the 2010-11 school year is more than $6.9 million.

The expenses? More than $7.37 million.

That's why, on Monday night, the Williams Bay School Board decided to ask district voters for the ability to exceed the revenue cap in a Sept. 14 referendum.

According to the resolution approved by the board, voters will be asked to allow the district to exceed the state-imposed revenue limit by $498,000 for the next two school years "for nonrecurring purposes," then by $890,000 each year after that "for recurring normal operating expenses."

"This is (because we need) to take the first two years to balance out the deficit," Vorlop said.

If the referendum is approved, for the district taxpayer, it will mean an extra $65.30 per year to the owner of a $100,000 home for the 2010-11 and 2011-12 school years. From the 2012-13 on, the district tax increase would be $98.30.

The projections Vorlop is working from indicate a deficit of $465,883 for the 2010-11 school year. That could grow to $606,415 by 2011-12, and more than $1.09 million by 2014-15.

"As powerful as these numbers are to Williams Bay taxpayers, this is probably the best situation they are going to find themselves in," Vorlop said.

Some residents, including former School Board president Vern Choyce, asked questions about the referendum and the district's budget situation. Vorlop and School Board President Peter Miller did most of the talking.

Essentially, it boils down to the amount the board is asking for is what Vorlop and other officials believe is needed to continue to provide the current level of school services. Miller called the Williams Bay district "one of the best in the state."

However, resident Lois Morava questioned how much teacher contracts play in the financial situation.

Vorlop said 72 percent of the budget is for district personnel. He also said staff has "really done well by the taxpayers in terms of their spending" for such activities as field trips and costs of other class projects, but "it's also true that items like that could be reduced to a certain extent."

The discussion shifted to teacher contract negotiations. According to Vorlop, the teachers moved to a preferred provider health care plan and agreed to pay more for prescriptions. The deductibles are $500 for a single policy and $1,000 for families.

Morava asked if Vorlop believed that was unrealistic.

She asked, "Do you know anybody else who pays that little for their health care?"

He said it's not a small amount when compared to other districts.

"Dr. Vorlop, I don't care about other school districts," Morava said.

However, Miller said what the district is required to do when it comes to employing teachers is different from other professional fields.

"This is an education system that guarantees a raise every year," he said. "This isn't the same as what everyone deals with on the street."

Choyce asked if the district's financial situation could have been caused by a decision made "30 or 40" years ago by officials not to consolidate the Williams Bay schools with another district.

Miller said that was "a whole other issue" which doesn't change the facts as they are today.

"How the community handles that is their decision in September," he said.

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