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Foundation Makes Appeal To West Bend-Mallard Patrons

By Staff | Jun 19, 2008

EDITORS NOTE: The following article was submitted by Karen Schwartzkopf of the West Bend Journal and Whittemore Independent.

On June 12, 2008 more than 1500 letters were sent out to alumni and families of the West Bend-Mallard schools beginning a campaign to raise$850,000 by June 30, 2008 as a means of maintaining a PreK-12 school within the West Bend-Mallard communities. This request has caught some community members by surprise if they have not been following the school board proceedings for the previous two years. In this article I will attempt to consolidate several years’ worth of board activities into a simple summary that may help you to understand the goal and activities of this fund raising effort.

From the high enrollment in 1995 of 495 students in the West Bend-Mallard schools (WBM) to a low point in 2005 of 331 students, WBM faced the double-edged sword of declining enrollment and reduction in budget guarantee monies. Please note, WBM has had two years of increased enrollment

and is looking forward to a third. During much of this period the school district also had a positive Unspent Balance (Budget Authority), which allowed the district to continue to fund various educational programs after their state and/or federal dollars were withdrawn. It was the unwritten board policy at that point if we can afford the educational program and it would improve the education of WBM students, then they would offer theprogram.

Then in 2005 the “Perfect Storm” appeared to hit WBM, the lowest enrollment levels, very low positive unspent balance, sharply higher energy costs, and higher insurance costs all served to place the school district in a negative balance at the end of the school’s fiscal year. The challenging part for many to understand as they review school budgets and funding is that the district does not know what their exact financial situation is from

the previous year until midway through the next year. This timing does not allow schools to make staffing changes as contracts are in place and so West Bend Mallard was forced into a second year of a negative balance before the district could adjust.

WBM has been before the School Budget Review Committee, the past three years requesting Modified Allowable Growth and submitting workout plans to get the district back on into a balanced budget. The WBM district was awarded Modified Allowable growth the first two times they appeared before the School Budget Review Committee (SBRC) which allowed WBM to zero out their Unspent Balance. Unfortunately, the School Budget Review Committee did not approve Modified Allowable Growth for the negative$326,552 the district overspent their authority for the 2006-2007 school year on May 12, 2008. The negative Unspent Balance for the 2006-2007 school year then reduced the spending authority of the district for the 2007-2008 school year causing an estimated Unspent Balance ending June 30, 2008 of approximately negative $700,000.

Now as the WBM board works with Joe Kramer, interim superintendent until June 30th, they are facing a series of challenges and will begin working with members of the community by beginning a Facility Study Committee made up of members of both the West Bend and Mallard communities. The WBM board will continue to search for additional means of reducing the operating costs to the district in addition to the staff reductions that they have already made for the upcoming year. WBM will also be facing a likely Phase II audit of their accreditation and financial condition, this audit is expected sometime in the early fall, the recommendation from the SBRC will follow the audit and any follow up visit by the review committee. To insure the successful audit review of the accreditation many staff members have been working at school this summer in the effort to make their portion of the review successful.

The greater challenge is the financial picture, again the SBRC decision came after the time frame in which you could make additional reductions in staffing, it is important to note that nearly 80% of the costs to operate a school district are people related. So now with a high portion of the educational staff set for the upcoming year the school board along

with their advisory committee will be looking at all other facets of the school district in order to find additional savings.

What WBM is facing is finding an additional $850,000 to make up for the past years over spent Budget Authority along with providing the district with funds to operate on in the upcoming year as they work to further reduce the total operating costs of the district. This amount, due to the size of WBM, is not possible to make-up in a single year by “traditional” methods. This is the reason that WBM Foundation is appealing to the communities and alumni for money to pay off this over spent budget authority as these communities have had a tradition of doing the nearly impossible in past by rallying around Community Lumber, the West Bend Hotel and other projects to keep this community viable and one that we are all proud to call home.

Members of the West Bend Mallard Community Schools Board of Education have stated that they are committed to trying every means possible of keeping a PreK-12 school in the community while offering the best possible education within their legal budget. They are in the process of finding an interim superintendent for the district while finding the means in the future to maintain and build a positive budget in the upcoming years.

First though the district has to get there with money in the bank, WBM Foundation is requesting funds to be in hand by 4:00 pm, June 27, 2008.

Pledges of funds will not aid the situation, as the state only recognizes money in bank, not wishes on the books according to various state officials.

Checks are to be made out to West Bend Mallard Achievement Foundation and can be mailed or delivered to the school. There has been an account set up at Maxyield Cooperative to which people may deliver grain and designate those funds to go to the WBM Achievement Foundation.

It has been stated many times in the community that they wish to see a PreK-12 school survive and thrive into the future. It is time to pull

together so we don’t pull apart.