As a result of the Darlington Community School District’s failed April 5th operating referendum, the board of education has proposed and acted on several items to address budgetary issues and programming needs in the 2016-17 school year and beyond.
The board of education has proposed a non-recurring operating referendum to exceed the state revenue limit that will be run on August 9th, 2016.
August 9th, 2016 operating referendum details:
Run on August 9th, 2016 to provide revenue for the 2016-17 school year and prevent any deeper immediate cuts
Non-recurring operating referendum for a 5 year period
Stepped revenue amounts in each year to maximize state aid and strictly define the revenue amount the district can utilize
Significant changes from the April 5th referendum:
A limited time-frame of 5 years (non-recurring)
A lesser maximum tax impact
Defined steps in revenue for each of the five years
The board of education took action to keep wages flat for the 2016-17 school year and offer no cost of living increase for all staff. The district also made an effort to keep bids for services flat for the 2016-17 school year and were successful in doing so with several vendors.
With a reduction in expenditures and increased student fees along with a state aid adjustment in per-pupil aid the board was able to reduce the district’s deficit by approximately $306,500 for the 2016-17 school year.
Welcome to our 2nd Board Bulletin! I received a lot of positive feedback after the first bulletin, and some constructive criticism. The most common criticism was, “It’s too long!”. I will try to keep this one a bit shorter and more focused.
Administration and the school board are updated several times throughout the school year on enrollment numbers. But this information doesn’t always make it to the public. This may result in mistaken perceptions about trends in our enrollment and what the future holds for our district.
District-wide enrollment in Darlington is increasing. In recent history our enrollment hit a low point in the 2009-2010 school year at 754 students. The large jump in the 2010-2011 school year was due to the addition of the 4K program. Since then we have seen a trend of increasing enrollment which we do project to continue into the next several years.
Enrollment numbers have a significant impact on revenue. A declining enrollment is certainly a challenging situation that no district wants to be in. An increasing enrollment brings with it many benefits, but it also brings it’s own challenges. Growth in enrollment puts an increased load on all district staff. And balancing a growing enrollment with staffing levels and financial restraints is no easy task.
But overall a growing enrollment is a tremendously positive thing. It means our community is growing. It means Darlington is attracting families and students to our schools. This growth will put us in a position to first of all solidify our current programs and services, and secondly to offer new opportunities to our students. The increase in staffing that has already occurred and will likely continue gives the district greater flexibility that will make possible increased efficiency, smaller class sizes, and new course offerings.
For any district to successfully handle a growing enrollment it takes proper planning, clear communication and a strong relationship with the community. As we move forward these are things the school board will focus on.
It has been a long and complex process, but the school board was finally able to give final approval for the district’s solar project. There was a period of time when I thought it looked pretty unlikely that we would be able to move forward with the project, but with some hard work and patience we were able to see it through. I am really excited to see this solar array go up and I can’t wait to see the finished product. A few details:
The 156 kilowatt system will provide approximately 19% of total electric usage by the district. The system will be installed on the DEMS roof, but will be split to provide energy to both buildings.
This is likely the largest solar installation on any school in Wisconsin. Many schools have small solar systems for educational purposes. Few actually have systems that provide an impact to their energy costs, or their carbon footprint.
The project will be a net financial savings to the district. Savings per kilowatt hour will be realized immediately.
Real-time data from the panels will be available via a webpage for anyone to view and for use in the classroom.
This project will be a model for other districts to follow. It’s another example of Darlington leading the way. That’s what Redbirds do!
Welcome to the first entry in the Darlington School Board Bulletin. We have created this bulletin as an informal way for the Board of Education to share information with staff and the community about recent and upcoming issues. This bulletin is not an official record of board proceedings and may contain errors. It’s my intention to release a Board Bulletin on a monthly basis, but it may be more or less frequent depending on current issues and the time available.
For this first bulletin I would like to start by requesting feedback. What topics would you like to see addressed in this bulletin? What kind of information is important to you? What other ways can the board and district share this information? Of course, not all topics are appropriate for publication here but most are and I would like to know what our community is interested in. Please email me with any suggestions or comments at email@example.com or call me at 608-729-5920.
Earlier this year our annual senior and staff surveys were completed. The results that can be shared with the public have been compiled and are linked below. Both surveys provide the district with valuable information that is used in decision making processes. I was especially encouraged by the staff survey results which showed significant positive movement since the 2014 survey. There are certainly still areas that need improvement, most notably areas concerning board communication, transparency and building consensus. The board and administration will continue to work on these issues and others.
One of the topics of discussion lately has been the district’s facility assessment and a potential facility project. I would like to give a brief explanation of what has happened so far and what will (or may) happen in the future.
In 2014 the school board approved a bid by Hoffman Consulting to assess the district’s facilities and identify immediate and future needs.
The assessment was completed in early 2015 and presented to the board. The assessment was broken down into sections identifying primary needs, secondary needs, and facility upgrades.
Needs described by the assessment range from things that must be done like replacing the High School roof and upgrading the High School HVAC systems to things that could be done to improve efficiency or usability like replacing light fixtures and reconfiguring spaces.
The school board has had discussion regarding the study and which items should or could be done, but has not yet formally adopted to pursue any specific facility plan.
It is likely any facility plan adopted in the future would require borrowing which must be approved by referendum. There has been no decision as to timing of this referendum, but the likely date would be the fall election of 2016.
As the school board continues in planning for a potential facility project, we intend to reach out to staff and the community through surveys and public forums. And, as always, staff and community members are welcome at any board or committee meetings at which this project is discussed.
Summer is budget time for public schools. Understanding how public education is financed and the details of district budgets can be a major challenge. I’m in my fourth year now on the school board and while I have a pretty good grasp of things, there are still new details I learn about every year. 2015 has been no different.
Like most districts in Wisconsin this year, Darlington faces the challenge of operating schools with no increase in our revenue limit. At the same time we are committed to providing the same programs and services to our students while knowing each year it becomes more expensive to do so. The state’s unwillingness to increase revenue limits as well as provide adequate state aid means that Darlington must increasingly rely on operating referendums to continue to offer the levels of programing and services our children deserve.
Our current operating referendum allows us to exceed the revenue limit by $700,000 annually. This operating referendum runs through the 2016-2017 school year. The school board and administration are currently working on plans for our next operating referendum. This referendum will likely occur at either the spring or fall election in 2016. The amount of the referendum is being discussed and should be decided this fall. As with our potential facility project, we do intend to seek input from staff and the community as we plan for this important referendum.
In the interest of keeping this bulletin relatively short, here are some highlights of recent district happenings:
Darlington has a Fab Lab! The Fab Lab has awesome technology like 3D printers, a laser engraver, vinyl cutter and more. I am excited to see what our kids can learn and create with this new opportunity.
The district is in the process of working out the legal details of the solar panel project. The district’s commitment is not yet finalized, but we hope to have things settled this fall and panels installed yet this year.
Darlington’s baseball field will be getting some needed maintenance. Along with a generous donation from the Sieg Foundation, the district has approved a bid to improve the field.
New opportunities for our students this year: Computer Science Software Engineering, AP Physics, AP Spanish, AP US History and Psychology!
Thanks largely to an E-Rate grant the district will be updating it's network infrastructure. This will improve performance and reliability for the increasing number of wireless devices our staff and students use.
8 Smart Tables were purchased with Wisconsin Technology Initiative Grant funding.
Of course, there are many more things going on right now and I can’t list them all here. I do want to say how grateful we all are for the many donations the district receives throughout the year. We have so many caring individuals and organizations in our community that give back in the form of donations to our schools. Thank you! Also, we have many dedicated employees who work very hard finding and applying for grants that make many things possible for our students that would not be otherwise. Thank you!
School starts on September 1st! I’d like to wish all staff, students and families a successful 15-16 school year!
Thanks for reading our first Board Bulletin! I had some catching up to do with this bulletin, so hopefully future entries won’t be as long. As always, please send me your comments and questions: firstname.lastname@example.org or 608-729-5920.