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The Tomahawk Leader is a state and national prize-winning weekly newspaper serving the scenic Northwoods area in and around Tomahawk, WI.

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 28, 2003 10:02 pm 
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Tomahawk School Board members have labored as of late on how best to involve the public as some hard decisions are made concerning a potential $500,000 slashing of the district's budget. Class sizes, school programs and teacher/staff jobs are all at stake.

Board members know they ultimately have to make the tough choices, and they're ready to do that.

They'll place heaviest weight on the recommendations that are being generated by individual school principals and the district administrator. They, after all, know their buildings best, and when faced with some severe cuts, what can and cannot be sacrificed.

Teaching staff do, too, of course, but as logic will tell you, no one is going to step forward and recommend or even support trimming one's own program.

Therein comes the hard decisions. Staff wasn't hired and programs were created without an identified need, at least at that time.

Somewhere in the mix of all this, the board would also like to hear from us, the taxpayers and local citizenry, regarding our comfort level when it comes to education. If faced with a significant decline in the school budget, what do we feel will do the least damage to local education? Will we tolerate bigger class sizes? Are extracurriculars sacred? Would a reduction in out-of-district travel and training make a dent in the financial woes? Should the district office building start generating revenue through rentals, or even be sold?

Interested district residents - whether you have children in school or not - are encouraged to attend a public forum on school finances next Monday night, Feb. 3, at 7 p.m., in the district auditorium. We'll all get a brief "Budget 101" explanation, an update on the Tomahawk situation and a list of remedies currently under consideration. Then there will be time, probably in small groups, to offer ideas and discuss specific concerns.

The forum is just one method suggested by the board to generate community input, and, perhaps even more importantly, to help inform taxpayers about the challenges facing local education. A community survey may also follow. And, as is always the case, the public is welcome at committee and full board meetings, and/or to contact board members or the district administrator individually.

The board stresses and we must re-emphasize that Monday night's forum is strictly advisory. While input is sought, it's the elected board that ultimately must make the hard decisions. Your involvement will, however, help give them a reading on what taxpayers view as most important.

Keep in mind, too, that even when the decisions do come, they are apt only to be a plan or list of options of what to cut if necessary. And, remember, a layoff notice does not mean a teacher can't be called back if funding permits.

The district administrator, principals and ultimately the school board have no intention of cutting any more than necessary. Unfortunately, however, they tell us anticipated drops in state funding, declining enrollment and escalating insurance costs all point to some pretty tough times ahead.

Find out more and lend your two cents worth Feb. 3.


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 29, 2003 10:01 am 
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One point that you mention is the administration building. With declining enrollments and all the room gained by the new additions on the school perhaps it is time to sell the building, eliminate the costs of maintaining it and recover the value of it. I always felt that the school administrator should be at the school where he has contact with the people he works with and this would be a good opportunity to make this move.

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 29, 2003 11:41 pm 
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I agree. The district administration building is a waste of space as it currently sits. The District Administrator belongs as close to the students and faculty as he can get, and I am sure that he would be the first to say so. I would, however, hate to see the building sold only to have the proceeds used to offset short term requirements. The money should be used to retire some of the district's long term debt so that the impact of the sale will continue for many years. Also, assuming that the building is sold to a private concern of some kind, the property will be back on the tax rolls generating additional support for the school district through property taxes.

Anyone who is interested in seeing all this done correctly should be at the meeting Monday night February 3rd. If people don't take an active roll in trying to help decide these issues I hope those same people will be as silent about the results later on. Here is your chance to be heard.


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 30, 2003 11:52 pm 
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I see all kinds of possibilities mentioned in the editorial: Larger class size, teacher cuts, extracurriculars, reduction in out-of-district travel and training, district office building generating revenue through rentals, or sold.
I say, start at the top and look at paring down on administration first, then work your way down.
Not replacing a retiring vice-principal this year and then waiiting for a couple more years for another to retire isn't helping much. I'm sure there will be teacher cuts due to lower enrollment, but the administration could use cuts also.


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 31, 2003 9:44 pm 
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I agree with you concerning the general idea of school administration cuts but I think we must be very careful not to hamstring the system in the process. Good administrators can pay for themselves through improvments in operating procedures that result in real savings and economies. The mathematics of teacher reductions are a bit more straight forward however. If you have 40 less students and class size is about 20 and the reduction in state aid is about $8K per student, you either cut two teachers or find an additional source of revenue to cover the shortfall. I would also point out that the size of the shortfall has probably been underestimated. Teacher contracts are up for renegotiation soon. With rising insurance costs just maintaining the status quo is going to cost us a lot more money. I would be willing to bet that the actual shortfall in the coming year will be closer to $750,000 than it is to half a mil.


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