$290 million budget proposed for Green Bay schools
By Heather Graves
GREEN BAY – School board members got their first look at the district’s proposed $290 million budget at the Monday, Oct. 12, meeting, which once again includes a decreased tax rate – $9.79 per $1,000 of home value.
Pete Ross, chief of operations, said the district continues to keep the promise made to taxpayers during the 2017 referendum of not increasing the tax rate – noting a decrease each of the last five years.
Angie Roble, executive director of finance, said homeowners will see a slight increase in property taxes due to a 4.89 percent increase in property values in the Green Bay area.
This varies, depending on what municipality taxpayers reside in, Roble said, resulting in an increase of $79 to a decrease of $48 on a $150,000 home.
Other highlights of the budget include nearly $5.1 million in CARES Act (Coronavirus Act, Relief, and Economic Security) funding, as well as approximately $3 million in GEER (Governor’s Emergency Education Relief) funding.
The budget also includes a 1.81 percent increase in staff salaries, consistent with the consumer price index.
Third Friday numbers showed overall enrollment at 20,218 students, a decrease of 864 from the 2019-20 school year.
Ross said multiple factors are to blame for the decrease.
“We were turning the corner on our declining enrollment, so much so that I think had we had a normal year last year and this year we’d see our enrollment would have leveled off,” he said. “Where we have seen the decline is with our early childhood, 4K and 5K students. Our enrollment decline in those respective areas is down 20 for early childhood, down 338 for 4K and down 210 for 5K. And I believe I know why. If I had a 4-year-old or a 5-year-old, I would think very seriously, an online environment in the virtual world, that I might want to have my child use educational services at home. That makes perfect sense to me. It is my hope and understanding that when we get back to face-to-face, those students will be back.”
Trustees raised concerns regarding staff work changes due to the virtual learning platform and how it relates to the budget.
“I do wonder if every single employee that has been budgeted to millions of dollars are actually working, and are we willing to do this again if we have to next year, and that is a question that taxpayers would like to know, and I believe it is a fair question,” said Trustee Rhonda Sitnikau. “I’ve never said a word that somebody isn’t working hard, but it is a fair question when you have an entirely different situation turned upside down. Who is literally still working in the capacity that their contract asks them to as if they were in person? If you have been employed to be in a building or on a playground or in a maintenance office, in a position in a normal school atmosphere, you can not with a straight face tell me they are doing the same amount of work. It is just not possible. I am not saying this is across the board, but people are questioning it.”
Ross said some duties and responsibilities may have changed or evolved because of the pandemic, but district staff is working harder than ever.
“Since March 13, last school year, all the operations teams have been working extremely hard,” he said. “When you think of operations, you have food service, custodial/maintenance, business services, payroll, accounts receivable, accounts payable, HR, legal – and I have to say in my entire career I have never seen the hard work and dedication and time of these individuals. They have worked harder than they ever have in their entire careers. In addition to that, I believe our teaching staff and educational administrators in the buildings are also working as hard as they have ever worked in their entire careers. They are working harder, longer and more diligently. And I commend all those who have really put upon their shoulders the burden of this pandemic.”
Ross reminded the board the budget is a working document and amendments will be brought forward as changes are made.
The public is invited to provide feedback on the budget at a school board engagement session at 6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 19.
A public hearing will be held the following week Monday, Oct. 26.
The board will vote to adopt the budget following the hearing.
Both budget meetings will be held virtually and live streamed on YouTube due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
More information regarding virtual meetings can be found online at gbaps.org/our_district/board_of_education/virtual_board_meetings.