Advisory Task Force

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Public votes on several facilities upgrade options for PdC Schools

By Ted Pennekamp


With a pair of all day Advisory Task Force meetings on Thursday and Friday of last week at Bluff View, and again on Tuesday night in the high school auditorium, the possible April 2016 referendum for facilities upgrades and exceeding the revenue cap is coming into the decision phase for the Prairie du Chien School District. 

“This has been driven by the community and we’ve had good attendance and a lot of input by the public so far,” said Prairie du Chien District Administrator Drew Johnson at Monday night’s regular school board meeting. 

Gary Schulte of FEH Design of Dubuque said that they won’t have any recommendations for the school district until the community surveys are received in three weeks. FEH Design was hired by the district as engineering consultants and has been working with the Advisory Task Force and the general public to come up with various options regarding facilities upgrades for the school district.

Schulte said that the Oct. 8 and Oct. 9 meetings at Bluff View were very productive with many school staff, students and community members stopping by to share their ideas. 

The most popular plan from those two meetings was to vacate BA Kennedy and build a separate wing on Bluff View to house 3K, 4K, kindergarten, first grade and second grade.

The second most popular plan was to build a two to three-court gymnasium, storage and shop classrooms. 

The third most popular was to build a small addition to the high school to house seventh and eighth grade students. 

These three plans have a combined estimated budget of $19.8 million.

If a referendum is passed that maintains the current tax rate of $10.66 and does not increase taxes, an operational budget increase of $600,000 annually and renovations of up to $20 million could take place over the next 20 years, said Schulte.

Vicki Waller, the district bookkeeper, said that the school district ended last year in a solid position, being $1,124 to the positive in Funds 10 and 41. For this, school year, the state has frozen the revenue limit and significantly cut state aid. On top of that, Prairie du Chien historically has had one of the lowest base revenue limit amounts per student in the state. Almost all Wisconsin schools have increased their revenue amounts, but the Prairie du Chien School District has been very conservative and has gone to this point without passing a referendum to increase the revenue limit for school operations. The overall revenue for operations for this year is projected to drop $16,508, said Waller, who noted that the general state aid is projected to be down by almost $250 million and federal aid is projected to be down about $30,000.

On the expenses side, there is a projected increase of $613,605, Waller said. The main items that contribute to the increase are: 1) an additional kindergarten teacher due to large class size, 2) a new BA Kennedy counselor added due to community requests for added pupil services, 3) an added Tech. Ed. teaching position at the high school as this had been vacant, 4) a new licensed professional counselor at Bluff View in a shared agreement with the Crossing Rivers Hospital. This again was added due to community requests for added pupil services, 5) 1.62 percent raises for staff, this was the consumer price index rate, 6) an elimination of Fund 80 which transferred those expenses into Fund 10, and 7) normal inflationary increased costs of services.

Therefore, said Waller, the budget for this year will be projected as negative. This is still a very lean budget as many lines were tightened. The district has made many cuts over the past years and there are few places left to make deeper cuts. These figures are all preliminary, as the state does not release the final revenue limits and aid amounts until later this month.

Gary Schulte of FEH Design said that the goal now is to maintain the existing tax rate of $10.66.  

“The question still out there is how much of the money, maintaining this rate, goes to operating expenses and how much goes to capital improvements,” he said. 

FEH made a chart following Tuesday night’s meeting. According to the chart, there is $720,000 available for capital debt service. The maximum to spend budget would be $8.5 million. A 20-year note would generate $9.5 million. 

Some of the vote totals for facilities upgrades options included a 1,000 seat auditorium (29 votes), $10.3 million; move seventh and eighth grades to the high school (45), $1 million; high school 7-12 gymnasium (41), $8.3 million; high school 7-12 field house (9), $18 million; Bluff View 3K-6 with independent office (39), $10.5 million; air conditioning and ventilation in all schools (21), $6.8 million; 750 seat auditorium at the high school (12), $9.4 million.

Schulte said that the votes for the gym and auditoriums might be considered a combined number and more a question as to how large these facilities should be. 

None of the votes are FEH’s recommendation yet, but Schulte said that the information will be used to help put the public survey together. The public survey will be ready in about three weeks. 

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