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January 23, 2019

12/24/2018 11:19:00 AM
Wisconsin school funding being looked at, Highland Schools hopeful for increased aid
In her report to the Highland Board of Education at their regularly scheduled meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 12, District Administrator Nancy Hendrickson explained that there is legislation in Wisconsin that could potentially help Highland School District if it passes. The papers were prepared by the Blue Ribbon Commission on School Funding in regards to findings from the Commission's public hearings and discussions of issues relating to school funding.
"Our primary concern is to have as much state funding come to districts through the equalization formula as possible," Hendrickson stated. Hendrickson noted several initiatives that may be considered, but there were four in particular that could be of greatest consequence to small, rural schools - much like Highland.
The first was recommending "that future increases in resources for school districts be provided through increases in the per pupil adjustment under revenue limits with an offsetting increase in general school aids to mitigate the potential increase in school property taxes."
The second is to "recommend that revenue limits be calculated using a five-year rolling average of pupil enrollments." And "recommend that the current prior year base revenue hold harmless be eliminated and the current declining enrollment adjustment be modified to instead account for long-term enrollment declines."
The third initiative of importance to Highland is shifting the general state aid formula and/or the school levy tax credit.
The fourth and final discussion was about revenue adjustments that "the current law adjustments under revenue limits be maintained" and "revenue limit adjustments be created for energy efficiency measures, school athletic programs, school resource officers, school safety expenditures, school nurse costs, and above-average transportation costs." These, and other initiatives, are being looked at by the Wisconsin Legislature.
Additionally, Hendrickson stated that "the audit showed all was in order. There's nothing in there that I'm concerned about." The auditors did note two findings: the district needs to make sure there is adequate segregation of duties when handling our finances (this is hard to do with such a small staff and isn't cost-effective they agreed) and that the auditors write the audit report instead of the district staff as recommended (once again, this isn't economical and hard to do with such a lesser number of staff).
The Highland Community Schools Safety Plan was passed unanimously by all board members. The 90-page plan outlines a bunch of important things; however, not much was discussed about it in open session as it's a safety/security concern if the sensitive information gets released.
Principal Josh Tarrell did mention that the district is waiting on the bullet-resistant film for windows, new locks have been installed on all doors, and a couple crash bars still need to be put in on some outside doors. The district recently had a practice lockdown drill during a passing time, and the findings/account from that are in the plan as well. "The kids were outstanding. They were locked down in probably less than 30 seconds," Tarrell said. "I'm extremely pleased with all the kids." There are still some improvements that need to be made, but for a first run-through, staff thought it went well.
The board approved purchasing a sound system for the gymnasium and five new scoreboards pending final costs and donations. The sound system is estimated to be about $27,000, but Hendrickson thinks she can get them to go a bit lower on the price. The cost of the scoreboards is projected at about $40,000, and she is predicting to get $35,000 in donations. There might be a potential shortage of $6,000 for these items, but the board and administration won't know for sure until the donations and final pricing. More will be discussed at a later date once more is known.
• The board approved the first reading of the 700 series polices - support services and policy 427 - homeless education. In regards to the 700 series, the board was just doing some updates relating back to the new safety plan and got rid of generic and/or outdated policies. The homeless education policy links back to federal changes in the law. Highland has had several of these cases over the past two years, and the law tells you exactly how to handle the situation.
• The next regularly scheduled Highland Board of Education meeting is slated for Wednesday, January 9, 2019 at 6:00 p.m.

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