KUSD board approves 2013 budget

At tonight’s Kenosha Unified School District (KUSD) regular school board meeting, the board approved the 2013 budget by a vote of 4 to 3.  A roll call vote was called for, and the dissenting votes came from board members Carl Bryan, Jo Ann Taube, and Rebecca Stevens.

The total budget amounted to $235.7 million.  This budget calls for a slight decrease in the tax levy, but an increase in the tax rate.  The approved tax levy of $92.4 million is about $700,000 less than this year’s levy.  It is also the maximum allowed by the state.  The tax rate for next year would increase to $11.54 per $1,000 of property valuation, from this year’s $11.02.  That represents a 4.75% increase, according to Tina Schmitz, the district’s chief financial officer.  Affecting the tax rate was a 5.81% drop in equalized values in the district.  “That increase had a huge impact on driving the mill rate up, which we had no control over,” she said.  The owner of a home valued at $200,000 will pay $2,308 to support the district next year, compared to $2,204 this year.

An issue of contention was the contribution of $3 million to the fund balance.  Earlier in the year, the district had estimated a $4 million contribution.  However, final budget adjustments, including restoring certain teaching positions, lowered the amount by $1 million.  This will bring the fund balance total to over $18 million, which represents a little under 8% of operations.  The board policy is to have a minimum of 15% of operations in the fund balance.

Board member Carl Bryan expressed his concern that the $1.7 million could be spent in the classroom.  He stated that “35 to 40 kids in one classroom with one teacher is unacceptable.  This piecemeal recall is not working.”

Board member Bob Nuzzo said that “there is nothing in this budget that surprises me.  It’s consistent with what we’ve seen.  The administration saved $7 million.  Approving this budget doesn’t stop us from hiring additional teachers at any time.  We can’t adjust the money coming in.  Administration did an excellent job putting this together.  I’m sorry, Carl, that, with all your wisdom, you can’t see it.”

Bryan said that he was happy that there was a seven-member board.  He said that he was concerned about the educational deficit.  “Parents don’t like the changes they’re seeing.  Our priorities are not Fund 10, it’s the students in the district.”

Board member Tamarra Coleman said that she agreed with Nuzzo.  There is nothing in the budget that is a surprise.  She stated that she is a parent of three students in the district, two in high school, and one in middle school.  She also stated that she’s very supportive of the administration.  “The honors distinction at the middle school is working for my child,” she stated.  She said that she was not totally convinced at the beginning.  “But, that’s why I ran for the school board.  I wanted to be a part of the change.  If it’s not working for your child, you need to call the teacher, call the principal.  We need to be fiscally responsible.  Thank you, Tina (Schmitz).  Tina is getting us on the right track.  Changes can be made,” Coleman said.

School board president Mary Snyder said that “we can’t only look at the students this year.  This will give us only two weeks of our operating budget.  There was a school district in Michigan that had to declare bankruptcy.  We can’t take the CDO risk that we did in the past.”

Board member Rebecca Stevens stated that she is amazed at what the teachers are doing.  They are all working hard, and not complaining.  “We can’t afford to lose any teaching for any year.  I’m concerned about losing teachers,” she said.  She was asking about unemployment costs and the fact that the expenses dropped for the month of September.  She had several ideas that she wanted to voice.

Sheronda Glass, executive director of business services, explained the unemployment claim process to her.  Stevens also wanted to know if the district conducted exit interviews, and Glass responded that they do.  Stevens asked for a compilation of the data and a report.  She also wanted to use the reserve fund for classroom teachers.  Her comments were:  “Now is a rainy day.  We need to get the umbrellas out.”  Her last idea was to take advantage of the window of opportunity to go back and negotiate with the Kenosha Education Association (KEA).  She stated that she doesn’t believe that there is enough technology in the classrooms, and not enough support for the teachers.  “There are too many variables.  We need to look at every possibility.  I think there is a pool of money there that has not been explored yet.”

Nuzzo said “attitude is everything.  The teachers are not being abused, they’re being challenged.”

Joe Kiriaki, executive director of the KEA, spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting, as well as the president, Scott Farnsworth.  Kiriaki stated that the “district has the duty to start bargaining.  We need to create a contract or a handbook.  Let’s start the conversation.”  Farnsworth called for using the funds to restore teacher positions in schools.  He said, “There is one more window to exercise with the KEA.”

Nuzzo called the question.  There was a roll call vote taken for calling the question, which the board members believed was a vote for the budget.  Stevens pointed out that a motion to vote for the budget had not yet been taken.  Then, a roll call vote was taken for the budget approval, and the results were the same.  The 2013 budget was approved by a vote of 4 to 3.

One Response to KUSD board approves 2013 budget

  • Sara Andrea-Neill says:

    This description is missing a lot of important points and concerns brought up during citizen comments… It depicts Carl and Rebecca’s comments as odd random thoughts. I was there and I recorded it and I am not sensing that you captured everything that went on. I am wondering also why the k-news and wlip are not reporting on the contention going on in the district??? I was really hoping you would capture it : ( there are many teachers and parents unhappy with the transformation plan. It is not working for our kids! The large classrooms with multiage set up mixing 2-3 grades together is an experiment in education! Mixed ability classes in middle school with the dropping of the true honors classes is shameful. My son tells me everyday how he can’t focus in class due to the disturbances from the kids that do not want to learn. We are dumbing down the standards for excellence in our schools this year and cutting back in suspensions all for appearances so the transformation plan looks like its working. The grade schools are a mess! Everyone has a different set up. A forth grader in a 3/4 multiage room is learning lower level math than one in a 4/5 room. Both kids were A students last year and both did multiplication in their same grade3rd grade room last year but in the multiage rooms age doing inconsistent curriculum. In fact my kids school southport dumped threat math curriculum everyday math and home links and now has NO math curriculum!!!! It’s insane! The teachers are frustrated and none were involved in the planning of the classrooms and all the changes.

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