Richland School Board Meeting 3/22

The Richland School Board met on Monday night.

At the meeting the board conducted its first discussion regarding the 2016-17 school year budget. Prefacing that it is very early in the process, District Business Official Kathy Stoltz indicated that the district’s expenses outpace the revenues by just over $353,000. Many of the figures associated with the budget are not finalized, and they have been cast forward from the current fiscal year, with the understanding that they will change. It was also stated that a 2% staff salary increase was figured in – which has not been approved by the school board; and a 9% increase in insurance costs was factored in – which also hasn’t been finalized. District Administrator Jarred Burke said that one factor that could affect the budget is the April 5th referendum. If approved by voters, Question #1 – which is the recurring referendum for operational technology – will help free up operational dollars for other budgetary needs. For the purpose of developing the budget however, that approval was not assumed.

Two other areas that will impact next year’s budget are staffing and transportation. Jarred Burke said at this point they are anticipating a reduction of three staff members – although the area where those will come from have not been finalized. He added that decision will also depend on several factors, including the passage of the technology referendum. The transportation costs look to be reined in by utilizing propane instead of diesel fuel for district buses. The school board approved a Request for Proposal for propane fueling pumps and an estimated 45,000 gallons of propane to fuel approximately 20 buses. Burke said there are several advantages to propane. In addition to the cost savings, there will be reduced emissions and shorter time heating the buses during the winter. The district is seeking propane and fueling station proposals by Thursday, April 7th.

Kim Kaukl, director of the Wisconsin Rural Schools Alliance, presented information to the board about the advantages of the organization. Kaukl, who is a 1975 graduate of Richland Center High School and recently-retired principal at River Valley High School, explained that there are currently 183 members of the alliance. He said that he advocates for rural schools as a lobbyist in Madison and provides weekly updates on legislation, school resources, and scholarships to participating districts. Kaukl said that a number of proposals in Madison are hurting rural schools, namely the private school voucher bill that has taken funding away from public schools. The Richland District alone has lost $132,000. He said if the voucher system continues as is, it could lead to small public schools closing in the next few years.

It was announced last evening that the recent hiring process for the next principal at the Richland Middle School resulted in no one being offered the position. Jarred Burke said the job will be re-posted, with another round of interviews to take place in early April.