Sturgeon Bay Superintendent Says Layoffs Will Buy Time

Speculation surrounding Governor Scott Walker’s budget and the budget repair bill has local schools stuck in a waiting game.

Sturgeon Bay Schools announced yesterday that it would serve pink slips to its entire staff in what Superintendent Joe Stutting called a measure to buy time.

“This is about buying time to make a decision,” Stutting said. “We’re hoping the Governor releases his budget March 1 like he says he will so that we have real, accurate information to base decisions on, not speculation. Our intent is to hire everybody back.”

Meanwhile, Southern Door Superintendent Joe Innis said his district is in limbo.

“Basically, we’re sitting here wondering what this will all mean for our district,” he said.

Southern Door has issued preliminary layoff notices to 12 full or part-time staff members. The district will go to voters for approval of a budget override referendum for the first time April 5. The district is asking for approval to exceed the revenue cap by $400,000 in 2011-12, and by $850,000 in 2012-13.

Under its contract with its teachers, the Sturgeon Bay School District must serve notice of preliminary layoffs by May 15, with final decisions due by June 15. If Gov. Walker’s budget repair bill goes through, those contracts would be nullified and the deadlines for notices would revert back to state statute. In that case, preliminary notices would be due by Feb. 28, and final decisions by Mar. 15.

“This has nothing to do with layoffs and everything to do with buying time,” Stutting said. “We want to fulfill our contract. What I would say to the governor is follow your timeline on releasing your budget. We need to know, and this isn’t fair to schools or to teachers. We’re very proud and appreciative of our teaching staff and our board of education understands the stress this is putting on people.”

Innis said Southern Door hopes to recall the teachers served with layoff notices, but it depends on the result of the referendum and what comes down in Gov. Walker’s budget.

“We’re told that the budget will include over a billion dollars in cuts to state aid, but until it’s released and we see the details we don’t know exactly what it will mean for our district,” Innis said.

Southern Door receives $2.7 million this year in state equalization aid, but that level has already dropped by $1 million over the last two years. If Walker’s budget includes the rumored $500 cut in per student aid, more cuts would be necessary.

“In the end it will definitely have an impact on staffing and other budget items,” Innis said. “There’s a lot of uncertainty.”