Falls board gets down to business

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Voters authorize $11.5M in additional spending

Times Herald Photo by Warren Bluhm

Oconto Falls School Board clerk Stephanie Wijas, left, applauds Monday after swearing in new board member Lisa Peitersen and incumbent Jan Stranz, who were elected April 4. Wijas, who decided not to run for a second three-year term on the board, was thanked for her work during her tenure.

The Oconto Falls School Board scheduled executive sessions for April 5 and again Monday to discuss notices of contract non-renewal for teachers in the event a referendum measure failed last week.

The closed-door meetings turned out to be unnecessary, as the question passed, 1,151-849. A comfortable 57.5 percent of voters authorized the board to exceed state-imposed revenue limits by a total of $11.5 million over the next five school years. The district said the funds are necessary to maintain buildings and update the school bus fleet, technology infrastructure and curriculum.

“We will be working with the administrative team to move forward with deferred maintenance issues, with busing issues, and looking out over multiple years to address these,” Superintendent Dean Hess said. “We did some initial work leading up to the referendum, so now we’ll be able to drill down more specifically as to the district’s needs.”

During the board’s monthly meeting Monday, board member Ken Harter praised the staff, and specifically Hess and administrative assistant Debra Woods for their work on the issue, especially the superintendent’s willingness to go out into the community and share the reasons for the district’s request.

“That was different from, in my experience, past referendums and I think it showed in the results, so I appreciate your efforts,” Harter said.

Woods said several people commented that a five-week series of articles Hess wrote for the Oconto County Times Herald helped them understand the district’s economic position, and they’ve discussed the possibility of providing a monthly column to keep the community updated.

Hess said the additional funding will be incorporated into the 2017-18 school budget that is now being prepared for the upcoming fiscal year, which runs from July 1 through June 30.