At its Jan. 29 meeting, the Southern Door Board of Education decided on a 5-2 vote to send a letter to families and the larger Southern Door community, asking them to contact legislators, especially Rep. Joel Kitchens, regarding Assembly Bill 835, which deals with sparsity aid and revenue ceilings.
Most of the board members felt recent accounts of sparsity aid adjustments failed to point out that Southern Door and eight other school districts in the state are at an unfair advantage with AB 835, which imposes a retroactive component on school districts with failed referenda in their recent past. The bill states that school district’s revenue limit ceiling stays the same as it was the year the referendum failed for the next three years.
Southern Door’s April 2017 referendum failed by 24 votes.
Several board members said confusing information had been issued that makes it seem that the sparsity aid equation is fine for Southern Door, but Superintendent Patti Vickman pointed out that “While we have the pupil per square mile ratio, we have too many students, so we do not get the sparsity aid like Gibraltar and Sevastopol.”
“We have to let the public know what the truth is,” said board member Pamela Parks. “There’s going to be a lot of confusion about that.”
Board member Polly Alberts – who along with Kim Starr voted against sending the letter – argued that the district cries “poor us” too much.
“I think we need to be careful because like anything else, you can poke the beehive a little too much and maybe cause some adverse reaction that you’re not anticipating,” she said, adding that if the letter is sent out, it should state the school board failed in formulating and messaging the last referendum.
“I don’t think it’s fair to just say the state of Wisconsin is not giving us enough money,” Alberts said, adding that instead of sending the letter, the district should get more proactive in spending the money it has.
But Southern Door Business Manager Mark Logan said that is the problem. He said it will be up to the school board to decide if it wants to float its fund balance for the next two years to cover an anticipated $600,000 gap.
“Why would we just stay mum when we’re getting a raw deal?” asked Parks. “This funding formula is flawed. Someone has to do something about it.”
The letter asks people to contact Rep. Kitchens, to let him know they are appreciative of his leadership with the Blue Ribbon Panel on Education but that a problem exists with the proposed legislation. They are also asked to contact other state legislators, but not specifically the office of the 1st Senate District, which has been without a senator since Frank Lasee accepted a government job on Dec. 29 and will not be filled until next November’s election. There are staff in the District 1 office, but as Parks pointed out, the residents of the district do not have a voting voice on the floor, and the Senate has yet to take up this bill.