WAUPUN – With heavy construction already under way and a borrowing window to close for 1,001 years, the Waupun School Board is considering exceeding its revenue limit by $1.5 million.
The idea was floated at a special meeting Monday night. The board will consider whether to pursue the funds in the next 30 days and voters have 30 days after that to petition against the move.
A referendum to spend $36 million was approved last fall, with much of the work already in progress.
“This $1.5 million is above and beyond that: It’s above and beyond our regular maintenance budget,” said Waupun Area School District Superintendent Tonya Olson. “The reason we’d potentially like to do this is that as we start opening walls we’re finding other projects. We’d also like to finish the items that aren’t part of the scope of the regular project.”
Through Dec. 31 of this year school districts may borrow funds for energy improvements, separate from the annual budget. After that date the energy funding proviso disappears until December 3018. Gov. Scott Walker set that parameter in a budget veto he made in September.
Olson said that the board considered what the average taxpayer might think of a request for more money.
“The board considered that, but we really do feel that now is the time to do these things and can save a bit of money doing it together,” Olson said.
The energy savings projects must be done through separate contracts, with costs and savings documented and reported by the contractors.
Part of the district’s ability to repay the borrowing comes from the discontinuation of health benefits that the district previously provided to retiring educators. The district no longer pays those costs, and the fund stands at roughly $1.5 million and may be tapped to repay improvements including a new boiler at Amity School (currently leased to CESA 6), a new roof and new windows at the district office building and new roof sections at Waupun Area Junior/Senior High School (now 20 years old).
There are also savings in the current building projects, with some coming in under projected costs. The bond issue for the projects also came in under the anticipated rate, saving additional money.
“Even though we were addressing some major projects there are still a few things that weren’t getting done,” Olson said. “This is a way to address those energy-saving needs without increasing the tax levy rate. We think we can finish this project with another $1.5 million.”
Savings may be substantial but will not completely cover the costs.
“We’ll save maybe hundreds of thousands but not the full $1.5 million,” said district business manager Caroline Hintze. “Basically if you’re saving yourself from a future expenditure – say for example the Amity boiler – you can factor that in considering what those potential expenses might be. If the boiler fails, as it inevitably will, what are the potential added costs? We don’t know when it will happen, but we know it will.”
“There are things we’re going to spend money on eventually and we only have one opportunity to take advantage of this financing,” said Olson.
“Now is a good time to pursue this,” said Hintze.
“We’re considering all our options,” said Olson. “That extra million and a half will really just let us finish the projects that weren’t considered the highest priority. We wanted to put our money where it would do the most for the kids, but there are still things that need to be done. This could help us address those issues as well.”
“The resolution is to borrow up to or not to exceed $1.5 million,” said Hintze. “They may decide they don’t need that much so we could potentially borrow less.”
Olson added, “We wouldn’t have even considered it if it would have increased the mill rate. We’re definitely keeping that promise to the taxpayers.”
The move will be considered by a long-range planning committee Monday evening in the district office.