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School Board Passes Spending Resolution but Holds Off on Preliminary Budget

The Shorewood School Board shot down a preliminary budget Tuesday night with two members saying they would like more certainty; the district business manager said that could cause issues with hiring of new staff.

Citing a lack of clarity on a preliminary budget, Shorewood School Board members failed to pass that budget Tuesday, prior to the district’s new fiscal year beginning July 1.

The vote was 2-2 with board member Colin Plese absent.

Instead, the board unanimously approved a resolution allowing the district to spend money for expenses such as employee salaries and benefits despite not having the budget in place.

The budget cycle for school districts in Wisconsin starts on July 1 even though a final budget isn’t adopted until October, when officials take a final enrollment count, realize more firm state aid figures, and start to receive revenues.

Officials typically approve a preliminary budget before the end of June, to serve as a framework.

“We really ask for approval of a preliminary budget for staffing reasons,” district Business Manager Mark Boehlke said. “We want to make sure the board is OK with some of the staffing recommendations made.”

Boehlke said electing for a spending resolution over the preliminary budget might cause issues with posting job announcements for new staff.

“We can post for them … but a month from now, if the board doesn’t approve those, and we’ve already hired someone, then that poses a problem,” Boehlke said.

Current budget recommendations from Superintendent Blane McCann call for a Shorewood High School campus supervisor and two new teachers, two Lake Bluff Elementary instructional aides, the equivalent of a half-time teacher for Shorewood’s two elementary schools and a sixth-grade teacher at Atwater. Two district positions are also proposed — a development director at $75,000 and a computer technician at $70,000.

The preliminary budget also outlines the elimination of the equivalent of full-time and part-time teaching positions at Lake Bluff.

Board member David Cobb voted against the pilot budget after saying he couldn't wrap his head around the concept of passing a preliminary budget.

"We either have a budget that we approve, or we don't have a budget that we approve," he said.

He added there are many moving pieces in the budget and with the history of line items like custodial overtime, the district should be able to calculate more finite numbers instead of estimates.

Mishlove said he'd like greater certainty on what exactly the board is deciding to spend the district's money on before he casts a yea vote.

“I don’t think it ties our hands; I think we should go ahead and post for job positions that we believe reasonably, likely that we are going to be hiring because of enrollment and other considerations,” he said.

The preliminary budget presented Tuesday night includes a $86,970 deficit, and included $730,000 in savings from staff turnover and a swap of health insurance carriers.

"There are still a lot of assumptions in this budget, and now is the time of year where we start to gather some actual numbers to see where we are actually going to land," Boehlke said. "In other years we have passed deficit budgets for the proposed budget, but knowing that charge to the administration is that when we come to the annual meeting in September we do have a balanced budget."

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