The Consolidation

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					The Consolidation Question
Session takes a look at school district consolidation and reorganization

            orget	about	increased	
            tax	rates	or	closed	
            schools.	The	biggest	issue	
            when	school	districts	
            consolidate	is	not	what	
you’d	expect,	Al	Brown,	superinten-
dent	of	the	Chetek	School	District,	
told	the	audience	at	a	workshop	on	
school	district	consolidation	and	
    “It’s	the	mascot,”	said	Brown	
wryly,	noting	that	although	his	dis-
trict	is	months	away	from	consoli-
dating	with	the	neighboring	
Weyerhaeuser	district	there	is	no	
consensus	yet	on	what	the	new	
district’s	athletic	mascot	will	be.
    He	was	one	of	four	panelists	to	
speak	during	the	workshop,	which	
opened	with	an	overview	of	the	state	
statutes	governing	school	district	
consolidation	and	other	types	of	                     liz Kane, assistant director of School Management Services for
reorganization.	                                 the Wisconsin department of Public Instruction, along with other experts,
    Liz	Kane,	assistant	director	of	           discussed the implications of school district consolidation and reorganization.
School	Management	Services	for	the	
Wisconsin	Department	of	Public	
Instruction,	explained	that	Chapter	       in	the	processes,	Kane	said.                  to	make	sure	the	community	is	
117	of	the	statutes	covers	consolida-          Wisconsin	saw	the	most	districts	         involved	in	the	decision-making	
tion	of	K-12	districts,	the	consolida-     merge	during	the	1950s	and	1960s.	            process,	Kane	said.	She	also	dis-
tion	of	a	K-8	district	with	a	union	       Since	the	advent	of	the	revenue	caps	         cussed	the	dissolution	process,	
high	school	district,	the	creation	of	a	   in	1993,	there	have	been	four	                noting	that	in	two	recent	cases,	
new	school	district	and	three	types	       approved	consolidations,	including	           school	board	decisions	to	dissolve		
of	transfer	of	territory	between	          two	in	2009.	Although	consolidation	          a	district	were	overturned	by	a	
districts.	Although	the	statutes	seem	     does	not	require	a	referendum,	many	          special	state	panel	that	oversees		
similar,	there	are	distinct	differences	   districts	hold	a	referendum	anyway	           such	actions.
                                                                                                  continued on the bottom of page 26 |

         Districts considering consolidation should collect
         as much data as possible and involve the community
         through taskforces and an advisory referendum.

                                                                                                                      MArch 2010 25
     B a r g a i n i n g S t r a t e g i e s w i t h Te a c h e r s             | continued from page 24

     attorney	conduct	a	contract	review,	               Districts	can	educate	staff	on	               a	choice	between	a	tax-exempt	
     which	will	flag	legal	issues,	identify	        lifestyle	and	consumption	behaviors	              fringe	benefit	(such	as	health	insur-
     permissive	and	illegal	subjects	of	            that	reduce	costs,	and	explain	the	               ance)	and	a	taxable	benefit	(such	as	
     bargaining,	and	recommend	poten-               possible	reductions	in	staffing	that	             cash),	but	providing	that	choice	may	
     tial	language	changes.                         may	occur	if	premiums	continue	to	                create	a	constructive	receipt	issue	
         Additionally,	district	officials	should	   increase	provides	an	incentive	for	               that	converts	the	health	insurance	
     share	information	with	the	WASB	and	           teachers	to	change	their	usage	                   into	a	taxable	benefit.	Mr.	Forbes	
     coordinate	bargaining	strategy	with	           behaviors.	Also,	a	district	and	union	            also	encouraged	boards	to	include	
     other	schools	in	their	CESA	and/or	            may	establish	an	insurance	task	                  language	in	the	collective	bargaining	
     athletic	conference.	When	meeting	with	        force	that	considers	plan	design	                 agreement	and	in	individual	retire-
     the	teachers,	boards	should	bargain	on	        changes,	provider	changes,	and	                   ment	contracts	that	allows	districts	
     a	cast-forward,	total-package	basis,	as	       wellness	programs.	                               to	modify	the	retirees’	health	insur-
     doing	so	allocates	the	risk	of	future	             Regarding	modifications	to	the	               ance	plan	to	match	any	insurance	
     health	insurance	increases	to	employees	       plan	design,	Mr.	Butler	noted	that	               changes	experienced	by	active	
     and	provides	districts	with	useful	            one	district	reduced	premium	costs	               teachers.	n
     comparison	data	it	can	use	during	             by	7	percent	when	it	implemented	a	
     interest	arbitration.	                         $10	co-pay	for	office	visits.	In	terms	
                                                    of	wellness	programs,	districts	                    LeARN MORE
     Controlling Health                             should	be	aware	that	they	no	longer	
     Insurance Costs                                may	provide	a	financial	incentive	to	               Attend the WASB Effective
     Many	districts	may	be	interested	in	           participate	in	a	health	assessment.	                Bargaining Seminar March 5 in
     reining	in	ever-increasing	health	                 Mr.	Forbes	concluded	by	covering	               Wausau and March 12 in Madison.
     insurance	costs,	and	Mr.	Butler	pro-           a	series	of	legal	issues	that	boards	               visit for more information.
     vided	insight	into	ways	that	boards	           should	be	aware	of.	For	instance,	
     can	address	that	issue.	                       many	districts	offer	their	retirees		

     The Consolidation Question                                | continued from page 25

     Financial Impact                               districts	begin	considering	consolida-            experiences	with	a	real-life	consoli-
     Lisa	Voisin,	a	director	with	Robert	           tion.	In	addition	to	the	age	and	                 dation.	The	two-year	process	was	
     W.	Baird	&	Company,	covered	the	               condition	of	buildings,	such	studies	             triggered	by	financial	pressures	in	
     financial	aspects	of	consolidation.	           also	focus	on	geographic	location.	               both	districts.
     She	encouraged	districts	considering	             She	also	talked	about	the	best	                    Districts	considering	consolida-
     consolidation	to	commission	a	study	           ways	to	communicate	a	decision	to	                tion	should	collect	as	much	data		
     of	the	financial	impact	of	the	consol-         consolidate:	start	early,	collect	data	           as	possible	and	involve	the	commu-
     idation	process.	Such	a	study	would	           to	back	up	your	decisions,	and	send	              nity	through	taskforces	and	an	advi-
     take	into	account	such	items	as	               out	clear	simple	messages	frequently	             sory	referendum,	he	said.	Although	
     budget	forecasts,	open	enrollment,	            and	consistently	using	a	variety	of	              consolidated	districts	do	receive	
     enrollment	projections	and	tax	rates.	         media.	Districts	should	also	seek	                incentive	money,	Brown	warned		
     She	also	explained	the	formula	for	            ways	to	actively	involve	the	commu-               that	the	process	does	cost	districts		
     calculating	the	incentive	aid	given	by	        nity	in	the	process,	Dailey	added.                in	the	form	of	attorney	fees,	consul-
     the	state	to	districts	that	consolidate.                                                         tant	fees	and	changing	mascots		
        Kit	Dailey,	public	information	             New District                                      and	school	colors.	n
     specialist	with	Eppstein	Uhen	Archi-           Brown,	who	will	become	superinten-
     tects,	talked	about	the	importance	of	         dent	of	the	new	Chetek-Weyer-
     doing	a	facility	assessment	when	              haeuser	district	on	July	1,	shared	his	

26   Wisconsin school neWs

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