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New Berlin School Board continues to weigh fate of Eisenhower pool

New Berlin School Board continues to weigh Eisenhower pool decision

July 14, 2014

New Berlin — Expecting breakthrough at last on finding money to fix or replace the Eisenhower High School swimming pool, supporters of the pool are frustrated as funding dollars still seem to be slippery.

A pool funding plan was anticipated to go before the New Berlin School Board by the end of June, Roger Dickson, chief finance and operations officer, said at the end of May.

But June slipped away and instead of a funding plan, the administration recommended and the school board liked the idea of having a professional polling company test taxpayers' feelings about the schools aggressively taking advantage of low interest rates and construction costs to get school facilities projects done. The board was to consider a firm and the cost to hire it earlier this week.

Such input is essential for all the so-far unfunded projects, not just the pool, school officials said.

What frustrates pool supporters is that the swimming pool ranks highest of the more than $22 million worth of unfunded projects based on the weighting system the district devised to prioritize the projects. It also has the sixth-highest total score from among the more than 200 school projects, both funded and unfunded.

But the pool's price tag has been the stumbling block, despite the high ranking. Those rankings are just a guide to help the school board fit as many high-priority projects as possible into available dollars, Dickson said.

But outspoken proponent of a new pool at Eisenhower Russ Bellford said via email that he sees the administration reversing direction on their stated plan to present a funding plan at the end of June and ignoring the three-year effort that went into prioritizing school projects. Now, he said, the pool will be lumped in with low-scoring projects for the poll.

"The low priority projects do not deliver on the school district's eight criteria for ranking projects in its facilities plan," he said. "The pool does deliver and in spectacular fashion."

The pool got a five out of five in the category of whether it was important to having a comprehensive educational experience, Bellford noted.

The tab for the swimming pool rose at the June 23 school board meeting from the $1.6 million in the district facilities plan to fix it to $3.1 million to replace both the pool and the roof.

"We can do it for $1.6 million, but we won't be doing it right," Dickson said.

To bring the cost impact of the pool down, school board member Amy Crosby suggested putting some of the money from closing the former Glen Park Elementary School toward the pool.

The savings from closing Glen Park are already being spent elsewhere, however, said Superintendent Joe Garza.

"That money is gone; it's being spent," Garza said.

But the district is expecting to receive $1.75 million from the actual sale of Glen Park.

Board member Susan Manley voted against polling the community and said flat out that she is against asking the community for more money in a referendum. The community has already said it wants fiscal conservatism through their votes for School board members, Manley said.

Board member Jeff Kurth voted for polling but was dubious about spending more than the stepped-up spending the board already approved for projects now underway.

"We asked for a boatload of money for this year," Kurth said. And through the polling, the schools would be asking for more, he added. "There's only so much money."

Further, Kurth questioned whether the Eisenhower pool needs to be replaced anyway, since there is a pool at New Berlin West Middle/High School.

"We have two, is it really necessary?" Kurth asked. "They can use another pool."

While the polling questions are formulated to be presented to the board, administrators will develop a new prioritized list of projects.

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