Security measures top priority in Mequon-Thiensville budget
Administrative team also recommends adding HR, communications staffers
Mequon - Recommended increases proposed in the Mequon-Thiensville School District's preliminary 2013-14 budget include the installation of significant security upgrades and creation of new communications and human resources director positions.
In a presentation to the School Board on Monday, Superintendent Demond Means gave an overview of the recommended preliminary budget, which the board will be asked to consider for approval next month.
The budget proposes approximately $890,000 in security upgrades - including secure entrance modifications, installation of additional security cameras and upgrades of furniture, technology and equipment for the elementary and middle school buildings, lock and key upgrades and security glass installation for internal doors at Homestead High School, and door software updates for fob access at the high school and district office buildings.
Fund balance could be tapped
About $575,000 of the district's fund balance is proposed to be used to cover those costs, along with funds available through the technology and buildings and grounds budgets, reallocation of early retirement costs and a federal grant, Means said.
From a security standpoint, Means said, the district would be negligent if it failed to complete proposed security recommendations.
"I have never recommended to you to use fund reserves, ever," Means said, adding that, "I believe that strongly about the first phase of the security measures that's been presented to you."
Those upgrades would be in addition to security improvements recently approved for the high school, which are expected to be completed by the week of March 18, Means said. Projects being recommended for inclusion in the 2013-14 budget would be implemented this summer.
Although board member Cheryle Rebholz said she has not received any calls from parents worried about school security, other board members, staff and parents indicated they have heard from many district parents who view security as a major concern.
"Every time an incident happens, especially after what happened in Newtown, this is an issue that will always be brought up at every single PTO meeting," said parent Tammy Dooge, who has five children in the district in grades six through 12. "Believe me, there are a lot of parents that this is a concern for."
It is possible that additional security improvements would be recommended in future phases, Means said, but the district would make every effort to complete those within existing budgets.
Proposal adds staff
With regard to adding human resources director and communications and alumni relations director positions, for which a total of $257,000 is budgeted, Means said the positions are critical for the district to remain organizationally sound.
"I'm not familiar with an organization, be it public sector or private sector, in Ozaukee County with the size of our operating budget, with the number of employees that we have, that doesn't have an HR director," Means said.
Such a position is especially necessary now that employee labor contracts are no longer in place, Means noted.
As for the district's communications efforts, Means said, constituent feedback suggests they need to be improved upon.
Although the district currently has a $30,000 annual contract with the Donovan Group for communications, district staff also dedicate a significant amount of time to developing communications-related content and materials, Means said.
Board member Gary Laev said it would be helpful to have a cost analysis and estimate of time now being spent by other district staff on communications efforts in order to fully understand the benefit of adding a communications director position.
Means said it would be difficult to attach a dollar amount to the benefit, noting that, "If we could have an in-house person that has the responsibility of getting that information to our constituents, who are demanding the information, we believe that we would be more organizationally sound."
Parents agreed that communication should be a priority.
"Communication, in and of itself, is the most important part of any relationship," said Julie Wojcik, who has three children at Wilson Elementary.
"This is an incredibly important position," she added. "I just don't think we can measure it by matching up the dollars. I think there's more to it than that."
Other new costs being recommended in the 2013-14 preliminary budget include the expansion of Advanced Placement courses at the high school, offering of staff stipends for the district's Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports program, implementation of the AVID program at the middle school level, and new data warehouse staff training.
Items eliminated for inclusion in the budget include a proposed World Language program at the elementary level, which would cost an estimated $350,000, and additional staff development amounting to $100,000.
The district is proposing to reduce staffing at the high school by 1.56 full-time equivalent employees, Means said. Class size at the high school also would increase slightly in certain courses/departments, and release time for department chairs is also proposed to be eliminated.
The district has tentatively budgeted for a 2 percent increase in staff compensation, and an increase of $50 per pupil from the state, although Means noted that it is too early to know for sure what to expect at the state level.
"There's a lot more information that needs to roll out from the governor's office before we can make any assumptions as to what the impact will be for the Mequon-Thiensville School District," Means said.
The district's main concern with regard to the governor's budget is that it maintains the current "hold harmless" provision, Means said.
The hold harmless provision grants a revenue limit adjustment to help offset the loss of state aid for school districts facing declining enrollment.
The board expects to take action on the preliminary 2013-14 budget at its March 18 business meeting. Ultimately the budget will be presented to the community at the district's annual meeting at the end of July, Board President Suzette Urbashich said, at which time the tax levy would be approved.
WHAT:School Board approval of preliminary 2013-14 budget
WHEN: 7 p.m. Monday, March 18
WHERE: Range Line Conference Room, Lake Shore Middle School, 11036 N. Range Line Road
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