Edgar school survey
Board wants feedback on April referendum options
The Edgar Board of Education agreed on Thursday to send a postcard survey to all district residents this week to ask which of three referendum options they prefer.
The survey will ask whether the board should put on the ballot in April a referendum question calling for either $700,000, $800,000 or $1.2 million in additional district spending on a recurring annual basis.
District administrator Dr. Cari Guden described the three options as follows:
_ $700,000. This “survival” plan would keep district taxes between $2.04 and $2.66 million for the next five years. Currently, Edgar school taxes are at $2.5 million. The school tax rate under the plan would stay steady at around the current $10.33 per thousand dollars of fair market value property for three years until it would drop off drastically in years four and five when the district would pay off debt. The mil rates would fall to $7.75 and $8.93 in 2024-25 and 2025-26, respectively. The plan would pay for roof updates, replacing failed cabinets and carpets, modernizing light fixtures, improving staff compensation, restoring cut field trips and maintaining co-curricular programs. _ $800,000. This “growth” plan would keep taxes between $2.08 and $2.7 million with a higher mil rate for the first three years, between $10.48 and $10.53. In school years 2023-24 and 2025-26, the tax rate would fall to $7.89 and $9.07. This plan would pay for all of the “survival” plan items but also install a paint booth in the ag shop, replace asbestos flooring and increase high school electives and technology.
_ $1.2 million. This “evolution” option would increase taxes between $2.39 and $2.87 million with mil rates increasing between $11.08 and $11.12 in the first three years and falling to $9.08 and $10.24 in years four and five. This option would include all of the “survival” and “growth” plan improvements, but also updating the auditorium sound and lighting systems, hiring more educational aides, funding a handicap accessible playground and improving maintenance.
Neither of the plans includes extending the school district’s debt service, which the school board may yet possibly approve. All three plans, however, use a $400,000 surplus in the school district’s debt service fund to moderate taxes for the first three years. Each of the proposals uses the surplus in different ways. The plans all assume that the district’s three-year average pupil count will increase from 539 this year to 555 next year, but, after that, slowly erode to 529 by the 2025-2026 school year.
The “survival” and “evolution” plans increase the district’s current $583,708 fund balance to $698,117 and $933,347, respectively, after five years. The “growth” plan, however, would drain the fund balance down to $461,368 in the same time frame.
District bookkeeper Morgan Mueller told school board members that the survey was needed because it was hard to figure out how much Edgar Public Schools should ask the public for in a referendum. She said the district had cut staff and programs over the years to balance the district budget under state revenue caps. These cuts include five teachers, including a business education teacher at the high school, ending field trips and out-of-building professional development for teachers.
Guden recommended the school board convene a community meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 13, 6 p.m. to discuss results of the public survey and four days later on Jan. 20 vote on the wording of a referendum for the April 6 ballot.
In board discussion, members said that referendum supporters needed to engage the public and make people aware that a referendum is on the April ballot.
“We need to get out to the people,” said board president Bill Dittman.
In other school board business:
_ Administrator Guden said the school would enforce COVID-19 student quarantines on a case by case basis after the Centers for Disease Control, Department of Health Services and Marathon County Health Department said seven and 10 day quarantines can replace a 14-day quarantine. She said a 14-day quarantine was the “gold standard” but seven and 10 quarantines can work if a student/staff member has no symptoms and maintains a six foot distance from others. Guden said she didn’t think the school could expect elementary school students to observe social distancing.
She noted that Edgar Public Schools currently has no active COVID-19 cases.
_ Elementary principal Lisa Witt said staff from the Wisconsin Math Institute visited Edgar Public Schools for a third time to talk to teachers about curriculum and enrichment.
_ High school principal Tom Mc-Carty said juniors had recently taken a practice ACT test. The real test will be given in the spring.
He said Edgar was participating with Athens in a wrestling co-op team. McCarty said all wrestling teams will have three dual meets in December and three in January. The WIAA, he said, has not decided on whether there will be a wrestling state tournament.
_ Board members approved 16 students getting 48 credits through Early College Credit courses.
_ Board members named Tom Bauman and Tyler Engel as co-coaches for the boys JV2 basketball team.
_ Administrator Guden said Edgar Public Schools held a state-required “soft” security lockdown where students stayed in rooms, but, due to COVID- 19, were not required to huddle together in a classroom corner.
_ Board members approved a contract for parents to transport a student for $7.72 per day.