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April 19, 2010

District cuts expenses to meet revenue caps

Hamilton School Board members took their first official look at the 2010-11 budget at their regular meeting. The budget totals $50.07 million, which is a 2.79 percent increase over the current budget.

To present a balanced budget and fall within state revenue caps, administrators reduced more than $100,000 of expenses in the following:

  • Elimination of short-term borrowing contingency;
  • Reduction of capital improvement projects;
  • Restructure of employee assistance program services;
  • Reduction of paraprofessional and half-time hall monitor positions;
  • Elimination of middle school basketball and volleyball B team competition schedules (fewer teams from other districts are available);
  • Reconfigure schedule of “specials” including music, art and physical education to create greater efficiencies without cutting services to students;
  • Reduction of two hours of office clerical time;
  • Reduction of high school intramural schedule and some co-curricular payments;
  • Savings through renegociated software contract;

Despite the budget cuts, Hamilton Superintendent Kathleen Cooke, Ph.D., said the district was fortunate for its situation as compared to other school districts. The district is growing, the School Board has positioned it well with good fiscal decisions, and employee health insurance and per-pupil spending is low compared to other districts.

“We are not in the same environment that many surrounding districts find themselves,” Cooke said.

The budget was created with the assumption that state aid will increase 5.75 percent and the district will educate 35 additional students. The tax rate is projected to be $9.71 per $1,000 of equalized property value – a 1.79 percent increase over the current rate. For each $100,000 of property owned, citizens will pay $971 to support local school taxes which is $17 more over last year’s rate.

The School Board set the Annual Meeting for June 21 when residents will be able to vote on the levy. The meeting begins at 7:30 p.m. in the Hamilton Fine Arts Center. It is preceded by the Annual Public Hearing which begins at 6:15 p.m.

Software error results in water undercharges

A Village of Sussex software error resulted in the district being undercharged $32,577 for its water use since a water meter was installed at the Hamilton Fine Arts Center in 2003. The district is liable by law for only two previous years of back charges which amounts to $10,337. In a spirit of cooperation, the School Board and village split the remaining $22,240 so that the district will pay a total of $21,457 for back charges.

Three employee group contracts approved

School Board members approved salary and benefit increases for three employee groups including:

  • Confidential support staff, a 2.31 percent salary and benefit package increase for the 2010-11 school year;
  • Administrators, a 2.64 percent salary and benefit package increase for 2010-11;
  • Assistant cooks and associate kitchen employees, a 2.88 percent salary and benefit package increase in 2010-11 and a 3.61 percent salary and benefit increase for 2011-12.

Figueroa recognized for state award

Hamilton High School communication arts teacher Debbie Figueroa was honored for being selected a state winner in the 2010 Kohl Teacher Fellowship Program sponsored by the Herb Kohl Educational Foundation. Figueroa was among 100 Wisconsin teachers chosen because of her superior ability to motivate people, inspire a love of learning and provide leadership and service within and outside the classroom. Figueroa and Hamilton High School were each awarded a $1,000 grant.

Hamilton Principal Candis Mongan said it is exciting to walk into Figueroa’s classroom to see how she “brings learning to life.” She said that by working with staff, Figueroa has taken the school’s site plan to new levels.

School Board member Deborah Briggs thanked Figueroa for the impact she had her daughter who is now in graduate school, and a parent in the audience and another School Board member gave testimony to Figueroa’s effectiveness as a teacher.

The Kohl Foundation Scholarship and Fellowship Program was established by U.S. Senator Herb Kohl in 1990. To date, the foundation has awarded $6 million to Wisconsin educators, students and schools. Recipients are selected by a statewide committee composed of civic leaders and representatives of education-related associations and the program’s co-sponsors: The Wisconsin Newspaper Association, Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, Wisconsin Council of Religious and Independent Schools and regional Cooperative Educational Service Agencies.

Hamilton art students recognized

High school art students whose works were recognized in the the statewide Scholastic Art Award Contest were honored by the School Board and their teachers. Art teacher Kelly Belot and Ellen Acuff introduced their students. Alyssa Gohr, Nathan Klafke and Alizibeth Mikolajczak were at the meeting to receive their award.

Two members take oath of office

Two board members were sworn in for another three-year term following their successful election. Gabe Kolesari and Gerald Schmitz were re-elected April 6. Schmitz was challenged by Ron Fricke for the at-large seat, but Kolesari was unopposed for the Village of Sussex seat.

 Personnel news

In personnel business, the School Board:

  • accepted the resignations of Marcy Early Reading Empowerment teacher Jean Niebler and Lannon special education teacher Traci Ellis, both effective at the end of the school year; and
  • granted leave of absence for Templeton Spanish teacher Cynthia Michael for the 2010-11 school yearl.