Who Pays for the $900,000 Loss?

Chris Joch, WGSD District Administrator, receives a salary and benefit package worth $180,000 per year. He misinformed the WGSD school board about the financial impact of implementing a district wide 4K program for months. In January and February, during the Citizen’s Input portion of the regular school board meetings, Matt Kranich described the correct financial impact of a 4K program to the (former) district administrator and the school board. Mr. Kranich’s comments and presentations proved an increase in state aid of approximately $900,000 per year. Following these presentations (former) district administrator and Mr. Jensen succumbed to pressure and presented their own financial analysis to the school board in March. The results were nearly identical and in agreement that after fully funding a district wide 4K program the local tax levy could be decreased by $500,000 per year.

Posted on May 18, 2014
Before redirecting the emphasis of this 4K issue to the (former) WGSD District Administrator, I want to share a few more words about Deb Schroeder’s “Letter to the Editor” that I wrote about yesterday.

Ms. Schroeder concludes that the 4K issue needs to go to referendum. I might agree if adding 4K services was going to raise the local tax levy $500,000 per year. If that were the case the District would need a very careful discussion about the cost/benefit of committing to 4K. But we now know that a fully funded 4K program is projected to reduce the local tax levy by $500,000 per year. As a result, there is no logical reason for a referendum.  There is simply the need to get the facts out to the community.

Obviously, Ms. Schroeder wants a 4K referendum because she hopes she can mislead and scare enough people into voting against it. Let’s face it, most members of the community are surprised when they hear that a 4K program in WGSD will reduce their taxes, but that is what will happen when enrollment increases due to 4K. To simplify, the WGSD will gain about $13,000 per year for every additional full time equivalent (FTE) student it enrolls in 4K. The cost to educate a full time 4K student is estimated at less than $6,000 per year. The $7,000 surplus per student multiplied by the 72 projected 4K FTE students equals $500,000. These are the facts and they are no longer refuted by Mr. Joch and Mr. Jensen.

I am sure proponents of 4K , like myself, empathize with Ms. Schroeder when she states that the district needs to look at the “long-term impact” of implementing a district wide 4K program. However, Ms. Schroeder and the community should be reminded that this is exactly what school board members Dawn Bleimehl and Tom Hoffman both requested almost a year ago (Mrs. Bleimehl first did this at the June 2013 committee meetings and  Mr. Hoffman first did this as a resident during the June 2013 citizen input).  If you are upset about how the district has responded to the 4K issue, get in line and let the school board hear about it.

The district did finally run long term financial projections on 4K back in February, but they were not exactly excited about the results.  In fact, the (former) district administrator conveniently forgot to even mention in his Waterford Post article on 4K that his own projections revealed a $900,000 increase in state aid as a result of 4K.  How misleading can a District Administrator be when writing about a greatly contested issue two weeks before a school board election?  In my opinion the (former) district administrator did the community a great disservice, not to mention then candidate Tom Hoffman.

Equally astonishing, the (former) district administrator 4K projections proved that a few WGSD citizens know more about school funding than both he and Dan Jensen put together. That is really scary because these two men have been making a majority of the decisions related to the district’s employment and personnel decisions for several years. They have driven an unprecedented numbers of employees to resign and/or feel their working conditions are hostile. Consider that up until a few months ago Dan Jensen repeatedly stated that he believed that an increase in student enrollment increases the local tax levy. Since this is what he believed, one can better understand why he may have little desire to maintain WGSD as a destination community for young families and the areas best teachers.

The WGSD school board has yet to respond publicly regarding the (former) district administrator’s errors and assumed incompetence. The (former) district administrator has yet to apologize to the WGSD community that he has been hired to serve, nor has he thanked those in the community that did his job for him. And now it is mid May and our school board will be debating whether or not we have enough time to implement district wide 4K for the 2014-15 school year.

If `the (former) district administrator claims that he would not be able to implement a quality 4K program for the 2014-15 school year, then the very next issue the school board should take up is who is responsible for the fact that Waterford will now lose another year of 4K services and $500,000 in local tax levy relief. The $900,000 in lost state aid (that’s $400,000 to fund 4K in Waterford and $500,000 surplus that could be used to reduce the WGSD local tax levy) would then be used to fund other 4K programs around the state, such as the 4K programs currently in place in Burlington, Washington-Caldwell, North Cape, Yorkville, Elkhorn, Raymond, Bristol,  Salem and Lake Geneva.

The WGSD school board must either hold their top employee responsible or we will be wise to consider their inaction next April when the two relevant board seats, Dan Jensen and Doug Schwartz, are up for election.

Note: While many school districts have had 4K programs in place for over a decade, we should ask ourselves how might the district’s finances be different if WGSD had a 4K program in place just 5 years ago.  Following DPI “best practices” it has been determined that WGSD has lost $3,000,000 in 4K services and surplus funding over the last five years by NOT having a 4K program in place.

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