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From the West Bend Daily News: Act 10 saves millions here


From the West Bend Daily News:
Date: May 26, 2012



ACT 10 saves millions here

Nonpartisan website says state’s budget reforms saved at least $12.6 million in county


By GAY GRIESBACH For the Daily News

Act 10 and other state reforms have not only saved Washington County taxpayers over $12.6 million; it’s shown school districts and municipalities a new way of filling budget deficits and reductions in state and federal aid.

Using figures from media reports and the state Legislative Fiscal Bureau, a nonpartisan service agency of the Wisconsin Legislature, touts $1 billion in savings statewide.

Although the site lists a $12,000 savings in Richfield, Village Administrator Josh Schoemann says a combination of employee health insurance and retirement contributions and a shared service agreement brings that number closer to $31,000.

Schoemann says the first $12,000 came from a simple sharing of resources when the Richfield Jt. 1 School District agreed to lease an unused village truck to plow snow at Plat and Richfield elementary schools. The village supplies salt and fuel and charges an hourly depreciation rate and the district supplies a driver.

“Act 10 is just the tip of the iceberg when comes to a new way to operate a government. When the political dust settles, the next step will be an era of collaboration and cooperation to find new ways to avoid duplication of services and save taxpayers money over the years to come,” says Schoemann.

While the district paid $9,000 less than a previous contract for the lease, the village collected $12,000.

“In light of reductions of state aid, we need to look for opportunities like these,” says Schoemann. “If we wouldn’t have had the tools (provided by Act 10) we wouldn’t have had the ability to have this discussion with the school district and would have seen a decrease in revenue without the ability to close that gap.”

And for the fledgling village, that gap was considerable. Schoemann said between reductions in state aid and fewer building permits being taken out, a $15,000 budget deficit needed to be filled.

The Reforms site lists a $1.7 million savings to Washington County taxpayers due to employee contributions to pension plans.

But County Administrative Coordinator Doug Johnson says because the implementation of Act 10 was delayed by the courts, by the time legislation was enacted, employees from three of the county’s eight unions had signed contracts and prevented employee retirement plan contributions in 2011.

He says Act 10 savings for the county were closer to $478,200, which were used to supplement a portion of operating costs for countywide radio system improvements and offset cuts in state and federal funding.

A $455,000 reduction in debt payments had more of an impact on the county’s budget, shaving .03 percent off the property tax rate in 2011.

In 2012, Johnson estimates reform savings will be in the neighborhood of $1.3 million.

The Reform site describes West Bend School District taxpayers as saving $2.56 million in health cost and retirement savings, but District Superintendent Ted Neitzke says those numbers are closer to $3.58 million for 2012.

“Either way, it’s a good number,” says Neitzke.

Neitzke says without Act 10, the district would have faced a $3.5 million deficit.

“With changes at the state level, savings were achieved without any major reductions in staffing and programs,” says Neitzke.

The district’s $82 million budget for 2012-13 represents a 1.1 percent decrease. Participation fees for bowling, hockey and skiing were reduced from $195 to $25.

The Reform site states the Germantown School District saved $3.2 million, but figures supplied by Superintendent Susan Borden shows that in the 2010-11 school year, that number is closer to $6.5 million. An additional savings of $4.77 million is projected in 2011-12.

Borden says even though state aid decreased about $1.2 million between the 2010 and 2011 school years, tax rates in the district have decreased 15 cents, to $10.13.

Enrollment also decreased about 2 percent.

Three part-time teachers were laid off and positions will not be filled for another four teachers that retired or resigned, according to information supplied by Borden.

Germantown’s contract with custodial, secretarial, aides and food service personnel three-year contract expires on June 30, 2013.

Kewaskum’s support staff contract ends on June 30.

The Reform site reports Kewaskum School District taxpayers are saving $616,400 due to pension payments from employees.

Interim Superintendent David Ewald says switching insurance plans and retirement payment contributions are part of an estimated 2.6 percent, or $9.366 million drop in property taxes proposed in the 2012-13 budget.

Some districts with contracts settled before the reforms found creative ways to fill budget shortfalls.

In the Slinger School District, Act 10 had a $1.35 million impact, even though teacher’s contracts were set.

District Administrator Robert Reynolds says Slinger teachers agreed to reopen and change their contracts. The savings is split: about 40 percent in the 2011-2012 budget and approximately 60 percent expected savings in the 2012-2013 budget.

Even though teachers’ contracts in the Erin School District were settled before Gov. Scott Walker was elected, the levy limit was lowered for the 2011-12 school year and is expected to drop again in the 2012-13 budget.

Lower insurance costs will absorb salary increases, but deeper savings are due to subcontracting a full-time staff psychologist to a neighboring district and a high number of open enrollment students.

District Administrator Keith Kriewaldt says this year, Erin’s elementary and middle schools have 111 open enrollments out of 335 students. The district receives $6,867 for each open enrollment child.

In the Friess Lake School District the Legislative Fiscal Bureau reported taxpayers are saving $94,200, but that cost savings may have more to do with retirements than employee health and retirement contributions.

Last year, a quarter of Friess Lake’s staff – 6 teachers – retired.

District Administrator John Engstrom says a parttime middle school teacher was laid off, but the school is experiencing lower enrollment numbers.

Engstrom says in 2010-11, the mill rate was $8.29. This year it decreased to $7.74. With the final payment of a long term building loan scheduled for the spring of 2013, the mill rate is expected to decrease to $6.33 in the 2012-13 budget.

In the case of the Hartford Union High School District, revenue limit reductions are weighed against employee benefit contributions.

Public Information and Marketing Coordinator LeAnn Odekirk says that limit was reduced by $627 per pupil.

She says the majority of the district’s $1.2 million budget reductions came from employee benefit contributions. The next largest reduction is from a major non-instructional staffing reorganization plan.

The district levy dropped 19 cents, to $3.91 per $1,000 of equalized value.