School Board Sets Budget and Looks at Teacher Compensation

There’s some good, some bad, and some worrisome stuff at the meeting of the West Bend School Board last night.

First, the good… The School Board held the property tax levy flat. Actually, it was a $21 decrease, but it’s statistically flat. This is the most important number when looking at the property tax burden. The levy is the amount of taxes the district will be demanding from taxpayers. Once that number is set, the tax rate (mill rate) is a function of the aggregate property values. At that levy, the tax rate is expected to drop by 5.8% with a 6.1% increase in property values.

Second, the bad. The approved budget has about $1 million more revenue than expenditures. According to the story in the Daily News:

It was also explained that the current budget had a revenue with more than $1 million than expected expidentures.

It was recommended that the cushion of funding go to the fund to rebuild the Jackson Elementary school.

Board members Tim Stellmacher and Ken Schmidt liked the recommendation.

Board Vice President Nancy Justman suggested a smaller amount go toward the Jackson fund and Board President Tiffany Larson asked if some of the funds could go toward current needs.

Ummmnnnn…. did it not occur to anyone to just not spend it and let the taxpayers keep it? By definition, if something did not make it into the budget, then one can’t call it a “current need.” If it was needed, they would have budgeted it. The School Board had an opportunity to actually reduce spending and taxes and chose to just keep the money as a slush fund. That’s not cool.

On a side note, the school district spends about $2 MILLION per year on travel. Where the heck are they all going?

Third, the worrisome… the school board heard a committee report about changes to teachers compensation. The Washington County Insider has a very good rundown with video of the presentation. I’ve asked for a copy of the presentation, but haven’t seen it yet.

The plan is to rework the compensation plan for teachers for the 2017-2018 school year. They plan to present and approve a new plan in January. The committee that has been evaluating and putting together the new plan is comprised of teachers. More specifically, it is comprised of some of the most activist, union, liberal teachers in the district like WBEA President and Washington County Democratic Party Chair Tanya Lohr and WBEA representatives Jason Penterman, Kara Petzhold, and Shelly Krueger. As one would expect, the compensation framework they are advocating is a teachers union’s wishlist.

It is also questionable how in a district with hundreds and hundreds of teachers, the WBEA leadership ended up with so many people on this committee. It stinks of an end-around of the Act 10 prohibition of the School Board negotiating with the union. Specifically, Act 10 says:

The municipal employer is prohibited from bargaining collectively with a collective bargaining unit containing a general municipal employee with respect to any of the following: 1. Any factor or condition of employment except wages, which includes only total base wages and excludes any other compensation, which includes, but is not limited to, overtime, premium pay, merit pay, performance pay, supplemental compensation, pay schedules, and automatic pay progressions.

While the union dominating this committee does not appear to be a direct violation of Act 10, it sure is a fig leaf of a difference.

Board member Monte Schmiege made the excellent point after the presentation that there was a lot of talk about teachers and not much talk about students or student outcomes. I would encourage the school board to evaluate any compensation plan on the basis of driving better student outcomes. And those evaluations should be based on actual performance data and not on a subjective “happy teachers = good teaching” equation.