CSD Looks at a Framework for the Future
Post consolidation planning provides challenges and opportunities.
GLIDDEN, WI – February 25, 2014– At its regular meeting in Glidden on February 25, the Chequamegon School Board discussed the future of the district over the next 5 to 10 years. District administrator, David Anderson, submitted a framework for the board to consider as it considers the future. That framework consisted of four key points:
1. Reliable budget projections.
2. A comprehensive review or audit of school District buildings related to possible operational and energy efficiencies.
3. A comprehensive facilities study to include: student enrollment projections, current and future building utilization and capacities, stakeholder input and multiple scenarios to consider.
4. Creation of an educational vision for the future of the school district utilizing input from a broad range of community stakeholders.
Anderson stated, “I believe it is important that we have a logical, sequential framework to follow as we face the challenges we will have coming out of consolidation. If we want to continue to maintain and improve the opportunities for our students it will be crucial that we get community input and buy in for our path forward.”
The first step in the framework, the budget projection, was introduced that night to the Board. The District was formed in 2009, from the Park Falls and Glidden School districts, following referendum votes by both communities. A strong motivation for the consolidation was the financial challenge being faced by both districts. As recently as last year the Chequamegon School District faced projected budget deficits exceeding $1.3 million in the 2014-15 school year.
However, thanks to District lobbying efforts with Gov. Walker and the state legislature the new state budget contains special provisions to help support consolidated districts such as Chequamegon. As a result, current budget projections indicate the district is projected to have a small surplus in the 2014-15 budget. Finance manager, Lexi Witt, who took a lead role in lobbying efforts with the state last year, shared the budget projections with the Board.
Witt stated, “our district projection of where we will be financially in the next few years has now been confirmed through our work with RW Baird and Co.’s budget projections software. We will now begin to face budget deficits in the 2015-16 school year.” The projected budget deficit for 2015-16 is approximately $800,000. This is still down considerably from the approximately $1.7 million shortfall predicted for 2015-16 two years ago. The deficits will continue to grow through the 2018-19 school year, with the district facing depletion of the fund balance at that time.
Witt pointed out that these projected budget deficits assume no cost-cutting efforts take place, despite the fact that they most certainly will. She also pointed out that due to the prudent management of district finances by the school board during the consolidation, the district fund balance has grown considerably beyond the goal set by the board to avoid short-term borrowing costs. As a result, some part of that fund balance may be used to address our financial challenges. Witt assured the board, “as we move forward we will continue to look for additional efficiencies, and cost savings as well as additional revenue. We are in much better shape than we thought we would be just two years ago. We will continue to work hard to improve that financial picture.”
Following the budget projection presentation, district administrator Anderson discussed steps 2,3 and 4 of the recommended framework. Conducting an audit of school District buildings related to maintenance and increased operational and energy efficiencies could provide additional sources of revenue to the school district. to complete maintenance projects that will need to be completed in the next few years due to the age of our buildings. The board gave Anderson authority to move forward with exploring the process of obtaining a performance contract that would allow the district to levy for any such projects outside of the revenue limit.
Anderson also spoke of the advisability of retaining an architectural/engineering firm to conduct a comprehensive facilities study of both district school buildings. Anderson pointed out that typically such a study would include an assessment of the condition of the existing physical facilities, an analysis of space adequacy, student and community demographics and input from multiple community stakeholders through listening sessions and often through community surveys. The report would typically include multiple options, short-term and longer-term, for Board consideration.
The board also approved Anderson moving forward with exploring possible providers for such a facilities study. Anderson stated, “once we have the information we need it will be important to involve both our communities in a discussion of what they want their schools to look like in the future. Time and again I see how important our schools are as community centers. We owe it to our communities and to our students to engage in that community dialogue for the future success of the district.”