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By LeAnn R. Ralph
COLFAX — Setting a budget is difficult when the amount of revenue is unknown.
Predictability of state aid and state funding would be beneficial for school districts at budget time, said William C. Yingst Jr., district administrator, at the Colfax Board of Education’s January 21 meeting.
Ken Bjork, school board member, had asked Yingst about the January 11 Political Action Committee meeting at CESA 11 with other school superintendents.
John Ashley, the executive director of the Wisconsin Association of School Boards and a member of the state Legislature’s Blue Ribbon Commission on School Funding, had attended the meeting, Yingst noted.
“One thing I brought up was predictable state aid and funding,” Yingst said.
The state has a two-year biennial budget, and the two-year budget is supposed to be finished by the end of July, except in some years, the budget has not been completed until the end of October, Yingst said.
Many times, school districts do not receive the numbers from the state budget until “after the fact,” he said.
Colfax holds the school district annual meeting in July, at which time, electors in the district can review the proposed budget and proposed tax levy for the coming year.
Wisconsin has 422 school districts, and school funding accounts for about one-third of the state budget.
When school districts do not receive accurate information from the state in a timely manner, the first year of the state’s biennial budget can be difficult for school districts, Yingst said, adding that the second year, when the numbers from the state are known to the school districts, budgeting becomes somewhat easier.
The state’s low revenue ceiling for school districts does not leave much room in the budget, he said.
Last year, the state approved another $100 in funding per pupil per year until school districts reach $9,800 per student. Colfax is around $9,300 per student now.
For the next four years, the Colfax district will have predictability for a $100 increase per student per year, Yingst said.
The $100 increase amounts to about $70,000 more in funding per year for Colfax.
The state-imposed revenue limits setting a cap on the amount of property tax that can be levied were established in 1993.
School districts were “locked in” at the rate they were levying when revenue limits were put into place, Yingst said.
If the school district was a high-spending district, it was locked in at a higher rate. If the school district was a frugal district, it was locked in at a lower rate, he said.
Colfax ended up penalized for not spending as much money as some other districts, Yingst noted.
Municipalities — cities, villages, counties and townships — were in the same situation when the revenue limits started. Those municipalities that spent more money were locked in at a higher rate, while the municipalities that spent less were locked in at a lower rate.
If the funding were more predictable, school districts would be in a better position, Yingst reiterated.
With the change in state government after the November election, are there any signs of change? Bjork asked.
Wisconsin now has a Democratic governor and a Republican Assembly and Senate.
Yingst said he expected more gridlock.
“The governor and the legislators don’t see eye to eye,” he said.
On the other hand, whatever changes are enacted into state law presumably will at least not be as radical as some of the previous changes, Yingst said.
Governor Tony Evers served as the state Superintendent of Public Instruction for nearly ten years and was first elected as state superintendent in 2009. He served as deputy superintendent from 2001 to 2009.
In other business, the Colfax Board of Education:
• Learned Colfax Elementary had ordered 32 ukuleles for students as a way to get them started with stringed instruments. The ukeleles were expected to arrive the day after the school board meeting, said Trevor Hovde, Colfax Elementary principal. Derek Westholm, music teacher, is planning to introduce the ukeleles to the fifth grade, he said. Students play recorders (a type of flute with a whistle mouthpiece) in fourth grade; the fifth grade will have ukeleles, and after that, students have the opportunity to play in the band, Hovde noted.
• Learned the school district is waiting on vendors to schedule more of the improvements paid for by the Safe Schools grants through the state Department of Justice.
• Learned the ballot order for the April election has been determined, with Todd Kragness being listed first and Andrew De Moe listed second.
• Learned the second Friday in January student count resulted in 435 students in Early Childhood through sixth grade, an increase of two students over the September count; and 372 students from grades 7 to 12, an increase of four from the September count. The total number of students is 807.
• Approved the 2019 summer school program, which includes swimming lessons and regular classroom instruction in all areas as well as music lessons, agriculture and Summer Saunters. The minutes of instruction from summer school contribute to the district’s state aid, Yingst noted.
• Approved hiring Connie and Gene Gibson as the directors for the school play. This year’s musical will be “Newsies.”
• Approved open enrollment spaces. From junior kindergarten to seventh grade, the available spaces are between 15 and 34, while 12th grade has seven. No open enrollment spaces are available for special education or speech and language therapy, occupational therapy or physical therapy.
• Accepted the resignation of Richard Meredith as the junior varsity softball coach. In his letter of resignation, Meredith noted Kameri Meredith has decided to pursue track in the spring, and he would like to be able to watch her at track meets without a conflict with softball.
• Approved hiring Rick Geissler as the junior varsity softball coach. In his letter of application, Geissler noted he had served as a volunteer coach last year, that he coached Colfax 10u, 12u and 14u Little League for six years and that he had coached and played men’s and co-ed softball for 30 years before coming to Colfax in 2006.
• Reviewed for a first reading updates to policies on the homebound instruction program; recording of Individual Education Program team meetings; administration of medication and emergency care; the district’s web page; letters of reference; food services; district support organizations; and relations with non-school affiliated groups.
• Approved for a second reading updated policies on safety standards; staff use of personal communication devices; computer technology network and Internet acceptable use and safety; and relations with parents.
• Approved the 2019-2020 school calendar. The first day of school will be September 3, 2019, and the last day of school will be June 1, 2020.