March 2, 2004

School Board calls for Special Annual Meeting

Hamilton School District residents will have an opportunity to vote on two measures March 23 affecting district financing and property. The School Board set a Special Annual Meeting beginning at 7 p.m. to take up matters of refinancing the district’s Wisconsin Retirement System unfunded pension liability and granting an easement on Maple Avenue Elementary School property.

Like other school districts and municipalities, Hamilton was assessed the unfunded retirement liability in 1982 when three retirement systems merged. In January, the School Board approved paying off the $4.2 million debt to the state with an interim short-term loan, intending to refinance it into a 20-year loan. Voter approval is required at a Special Annual Meeting to authorize long-term refinancing of the debt. Ultimately, school officials hope to save $8.9 million over 20 years by reducing the interest rate on the debt from 8 percent that it was paying the state to a more competitive rate. Initial estimates that district officials received indicated the district would be able to refinance it at a rate of 5.25 percent.

In the easement matter, the district is responding to a request from the Village of Sussex to provide permanent, temporary and tree-lined easements to allow municipal storm sewer improvements. The district must get voter approval at a Special Annual Meeting to approve an easement.

1998 referendum debt refinanced

In other financial business, the School Board took action March 2 to refinance $8.75 million of debt from the 1998 referendum. The district was able to refinance bonds from rates that ranged from 4.2 to 4.6 percent into an average 3.08 percent rate. Savings for taxpayers over nine years will be $348,485.

In 1998, Hamilton voters approved a referendum for renovation and addition projects at Maple Avenue Elementary School and Templeton Middle School and the building of Woodside Elementary School. The debt will be repaid in 2012.

The district has refinanced other referendum debt in the past to assure the most competitive interest rate. In the past four years, two other loans were refinanced.

When a school district or municipality borrows — whether for new debt or to refinance an existing one — it must go through a process in which Moody’s Investor Services assigns a credit rating. Moody’s affirmed the district’s Aa2 rating, one that is considered strong among Wisconsin school districts. The high quality financial rating has a positive impact on taxpayers because the district is able to secure loans at lower interest rates than those with less impressive Moody’s ratings.

In its evaluation, Moody’s Investor Services cited the district’s “strong financial position, continued tax base growth due to an advantageous location and moderate debt burden.”
“Moody’s believes the district’s financial position will remain strong due to prudent fiscal management and steady, enrollment growth,” the report stated.

Among positive aspects, the financial researcher noted a stable fund balance which allows the district to avoid cash flow borrowing to meet bill payments.

Middle, high school teachers meet to plan seamless transition

Making sure students learn what they need without duplication or gaps from one grade level to another was the subject of a workshop Feb. 27 that 29 middle and high school teachers attended. Educational Services and Human Resources Assistant Superintendent Dean Schultz and Educational Services Supervisor Dee Bauman, Ph.D., reported to School Board members the process and results of the meeting.

“We want to make sure that faculty members come together from across schools so that when students go from one level to another, it is a seamless transition,” Schultz said.
Reading and mathematics teachers gathered in separate meetings to analyze student achievement, identify strengths and weaknesses, set goals to strengthen instruction and establish ways to share their results with colleagues.

Bauman said the next steps in the process will be to review the outcomes with secondary school administrators, share findings with department and house level teachers who did not attend the meetings, set instructional goals to address issues and use the process with other teaching groups.

Bielinski agrees to fund construction program another year

Superintendent Kathleen Cooke, Ph.D., announced that Bielinski Homes agreed to provide funding for the district’s carpentry program for another year. The Waukesha-based home-building company agreed last June to provide $69,000 to fund a full-time teacher and provide funding for other construction class expenses for the current school year.

Cooke said the company hopes to establish a $1 million foundation by 2005 to which area high schools can apply for grants. For the 2004-05 school year, company representatives have committed to funding for the Hamilton program. After then, the district will apply for grants along with others.

Personnel matter approved

In personnel matters, the School Board appointed Gerald Herman as a Hamilton High School cleaner effective March 8.