Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

Finding a budgetary solution everyone can deal with

March 10, 2011

As unions, teachers and others in the state continue to battle Gov. Scott Walker and his proposed state budget and repair bill, thereís at least one community that seemingly has come together to deal with the likely future cuts rather than just argue about them.

Lake Geneva teachers, support staff, administrators and School Board members have agreed to renegotiated two-year contracts that will ensure no layoffs or staff cuts for 2011-12.

Teachers, staff and administrators conceded to paying higher portions of their health insurance premiums and to their pensions. They also agreed to a two-year wage freeze.

These concessions apparently will ensure no teacher and staff layoffs or educational program reductions in the Badger and Lake Geneva Area Elementary school districts for the next school year.

These agreements come on the heels of Walkerís budget proposal, which reduces the amount of revenue school districts can levy, and also limits the amount of state aid a district can lose.

Walkerís budget repair bill has garnered national attention. In it, Walker wants to basically end collective bargaining for public employees. Those opposed to Walkerís plan say it is an assault on public unions and working families in Wisconsin.

Walker has stated this is the only way to give local governments and school districts the tools to deal with the budget cuts he has proposed and to not raise taxes on Wisconsin residents. Walker said his budget and repair bill are all in an effort to deal with the stateís $3.6 billion budget shortfall.

But, what happened late last week in Lake Geneva is about more than whoís right, Walker, unions, Democrats or Republicans.

What Lake Geneva teachers, staff and administration show is that when the chips are down, people will do the right and best thing.

It appears as though Badger will have its revenue reduced by about $900,000, while the Joint 1 elementary district will have its revenue reduced by more than $1.2 million. The other part of Walkerís budget also ensures both districts that neither will lose more than 10 percent of state aid, which totals about $8 million per year.

That left teachers, staff and administration with the options of conceding benefits and pay or layoffs. The unions chose giving in on benefits and the pay freeze.

The end result appears that the schools will be able to meet the budgets with the reductions based on Walkerís cuts and with that, the taxpayers will likely see their tax rates drop for the districts.

Iím not going to sit here and claim this is a win-win-win for those involved.

Itís definitely a win for the taxpayers. There are no direct reductions in educational programs and all teachers, staff and administrators remain employed ó maybe not a win, but certainly not a loss.

Iím sure not everyone in the district is thinking that way, but they should. In a tough situation, the teachers, staff and administration did the right thing, the noble thing, and for that I hope they are rewarded in the future for these acts.

If they havenít already, these teachers, staff and administrators in Lake Geneva proved they truly are in education for the kids in our schools and the betterment of this community.

They should be commended and thanked for these efforts and everything they do in the classroom and school on a daily basis.

During the past several weeks, we have seen democracy in action, or inaction.

That also included some of the worst behavior many have ever seen at the State Capitol in Madison as demonstrators damaged the Capitol rotunda, harassed legislators heading to their offices and would not leave the capitol at night when asked.

But instead, in Lake Geneva it was the opposite. We saw the best in people during a difficult situation.

Seiser is the editor of the

Regional News.