Practically Speaking

Kyle and her husband moved to Brookfield in 1986. She became active in local politics and started blogging in 2004. Her focus is primarily on local issues but often includes state and national topics, too. Kyle looks at things from the taxpayers' perspective in a creative, yet down to earth way, addressing them from a practical point of view.

Elmbrook: Handwriting's been on wall for school closings for years

Education, Elections, Elmbrook, TAXES

It must have been quite the meeting last Tuesday. At least two difficult subjects were discussed by the Elmbrook School Board: scaling back benefits and closing schools. (Wish I had cable TV.)

But discuss them, we must. The harsh reality is that we cannot continue with business as usual and keep the budget in line with revenue caps and sanity. Since most of the school budget goes toward salaries and benefits, closing a school makes sense. In Elmbrook, salary/benefit costs are currently 83.5% of the budget, the remaining 16.5% goes toward items like text books, facility improvements, and utilities.

At a meeting last November on class sizes and how it relates to budget, "Dr. Gibson stated that they like to keep salary/benefits percentages at 80% of the budget total; districts that are in trouble are at 90%." Closing a school eliminates some of the administrative and support staff salary and benefits costs, which account for the lion's share of the budget.

As for the possible school closings, even before the new Dixon and Brookfield El were built, we have had excess capacity--especially since enrollments are declining. Excess capacity has been a topic of discussion ever since we moved here in 1986. Remember there were 4 failed building referendums before Swanson's reopening/addition referendum of 1996, which greatly expanded Swanson's previous size. Declining enrollment was a topic of discussion during those 1991 - 1996 referendum requests.

Hillside elementary and Tonawanda are the two likely candidates for closing, if we just consider enrollment numbers and capacity. I noted the excess capacity during the Swanson Swap era in 2004. It is unlikely Tonawanda will ever be closed, however, because it is Elm Grove's only school.

The district administration office building on Hope Street (a former school) and Fairview South are two likely candidates for closing and possible sell off. Both buildings are in need of repair. Fairview is in much worse condition, I believe. 

Would it be practical to move the Fairview students and administration to the two smaller elementary schools? Considering Tonawanda is most likely off the table, moving Fairview to Hillside is the more promising scenario. Leaving the administrative offices on Hope Street rather than putting on an addition to an existing school probably makes the most sense. (They should fix those leaking valves/pipes in the ceilings though.)

A reader sent me this link to the Waukesha Freeman article, Elmbrook looks at closing some schools District needs to cut nearly $10 million in next 5 years:  

BROOKFIELD - Elmbrook School District officials talked Tuesday about possibly consolidating its six elementary schools to deal with the task of cutting $10 million from its budget in the next five years.

According to a memo that was issued by Elmbrook Superintendent Matt Gibson and reviewed at Tuesday's school board work session, the district has 13 facilities. Gibson proposes looking at the feasibility of consolidating district buildings over the next five years.

...In an interview Thursday, Gibson said while the board has begun to explore its options, it's simply that, an exploration, because the district has five years to make cost-saving decisions.

School consolidation is something that should have been discussed, in my opinion, years ago, before we overbuilt Swanson, Brookfield El, Dixon, and now the 2 high schools. I am glad the administration and board are at least openly talking about this unpopular subject now.

When making your school board member choices this February and April, make sure you know where your candidate stands on school consolidation, salary and benefit packages, 4K, and referendums for raising the revenue cap. These will be the $??Million dollar questions facing future board members.

Please, comment content should relate to the subject of the post. Although I try to respond to many, do not interpret my lack of a response as agreement.



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