Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

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Big Foot’s budget will dip into fund balance

by Rob Ireland

October 27, 2011

ELKHORN — On Halloween, after trick-or-treating, taxpayers will have the opportunity to vote on the budget for Big Foot High School during its annual meeting.

What's spooky about this year's budget, is the district will have to spend about $110,000 of its fund balance to bring it into the black.

"We don't want to present a budget that isn't balanced, but it really is necessary this year," District Administrator Dorothy Kaufmann said. "We are very lucky to have the tax base we have, despite the fact it lost a little value."

During the annual meeting, which begins Oct. 31 at 8 p.m., members of the public who reside in the district can make motions and vote on the district's budget and the salaries of School Board members.

Overall district taxpayers will likely see an increase of about $0.08 per $1,000 of assessed value, which will bring the rate to $3.214 per $1,000 of assessed value.

That means the owner of a home valued at $150,000 will pay $482.10 toward the district, which is a $11.85 increase from last year. Part of that increase can also be attributed to a $23 million decrease in the district's equalized value — which is the taxable value of all the property in the district.

"We cut everywhere we could cut," Kaufmann said. "We cut little bits wherever we could, but there was no area where we could make a huge amount of cuts."

Presenting an unbalanced budget to the public is something Kaufmann would rather avoid, but said it was necessary this year because the school is funding capital improvements.

The big ticket capital expenditure is repairing the school's roof, which will cost about $300,000. Water has leaked through the roof and dripped into different parts of the building.

Repairs also will be made to the school's heating and cooling systems and the flooring in some of the classrooms will be replaced.

The carpet flooring was part of the new building project in 2000, and in the past decade it has worn down with rips, tears and stains. Kaufmann said the district is installing tile flooring in the classrooms, which should have a longer useful life.

Over the next three years, the district also will improve its technology infrastructure at a total cost of $208,000.

The school's tennis courts and high pit jump also will be replaced. Kaufmann said under the current conditions, these items are dangerous to students who use them.

The district also repainted the track, which it originally planned to resurface. However, after speaking with some experts, Kaufmann said the track shouldn't need to be replaced for another three to four years.

Another expense in this year's budget is replacing eight of the school's entrance doors,

"We need to have operating doors," Kaufmann said. Replacing the doors, including the frames, costs about $21,000.

Costs of salaries and benefits

Even though the district added two new positions to its payroll, and gave the existing educators a 1.2 percent salary increase, the district will spend about $400,000 less in salaries and benefits this year.

Part of that is because of attrition. Last year, about half a dozen veteran teachers retired and were replaced with ones lower on the salary scale. However, the Act 10 legislation also contributes to the reduction of this expense.

Under Act 10, teachers are required to pay 5.8 percent of their retirement benefits and 12 percent of their health insurance benefits.

The new positions added to Big Foot's payroll included an additional instructional aide and a special education teacher.

In previous years, Walworth County funded all of the special education expenses within the area school districts, but the burden of those costs has been transferred back to local schools. The district still has one special education teacher who is paid by the county.

The district didn't layoff anyone in its budget. Kaufmann said one person, who was part-time, left and wasn't replaced.

"We need the people we have to operate the building and support instruction," Kaufmann said.

Kaufmann said dipping into the fund balance, which after this year will have about $1.05 million in it, is something the district can't continue to do.

"Dipping into the fund balance all the time isn't a good way to operate," she said.