New Berlin School Board split on 2009-10 tax levy
With less state aid, some advocate 3 percent increase
The School Board is wondering if the school tax levy for the 2009-10 school year should be 3 percent - the maximum allowed - or if it should be less after discussions about the district's budget buffer shrinking.
The state budget tinkering in Madison is likely to shrink the buffer to less than $900,000, due to less aid coming from a cash-strapped state government, Superintendent Paul Kreutzer told the board on June 8.
A 3 percent hike is expected to yield $900,000 beyond what the district plans to spend, even after the potential state aid cut. School Board members have expressed concern about surprises - like less state aid - and tended to like the idea of a cushion in the budget.
But board member Matt Thomas strongly supported a third of that anticipated $900,000 going back to taxpayers for tax relief.
But board member Susan Manley repeated her desire to have a levy with no increase.
"I can't support anything greater than last year," she said. The board needs to show that it really wants to help struggling taxpayers, she said.
The board will consider its options Monday.
Other budgets scrutinized
Last week the board also reviewed the proposed $2.2 million buildings and grounds budget and the proposed $1.2 million technology budget for 2009-10.
School Board member Art Marquardt wondered if the $2.2 million for buildings and grounds had some money for getting playing and practice fields back into shape.
Robert Pulliam, director of buildings and grounds, said a contractor has sprayed all the school grounds, and two elementary schools - Reagan and Elmwood - will get weed and feed treatments this year. It will be tough to grow grass at Reagan, however, because crews cannot effectively water the grass seedlings, he said.
"We basically go off of Mother Nature," Pulliam said.
But the two high schools get top priority for safety reasons, Kreutzer said. High school students are bigger, so they need a better cushion when they fall to prevent injuries, he said. The elementary schools have to be attended to as possible, Kreutzer said. Even so, he said enough money is in the budget to eventually bring all the fields up to par in the next couple of years.
Computers would be replaced
The proposed $1.2 million technology budget includes replacing 300 desktop computers and 150 laptops. The desktops are replaced every five years and the laptops every four, officials said.
But the proposed technology budget also includes several advances. It would add 39 Smart Boards and projectors that basically project a computer screen onto an interactive white board.
It also would provide video production and graphics art equipment for the high schools. That is to keep up with the elementary schools, Kreutzer said.
The elementary schools have daily video broadcasts and officials want to carry that through into the high schools, he said.
The proposed technology budget also carries forward an initiative started this year to reduce use of service contracts.
The district has been working on upgrading its technology. Lisa Dukes, district network engineer, gave a grade of "C-" or "C" for the aging equipment in the schools. With next year's projected spending, she gave the network a "B".
The $1.2 million proposed technology budget is actually less than this year's $1.3 million budget.
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