Whitewater School Board members Gretchen Torres, Kelly Davis and Jim Stewart discuss, and look at, potential options of a sign near the High School that would also have a video board that would rotate announcements. (Ryan Spoehr photo)

By Ryan Spoehr

Staff Writer

The clarification of what the Whitewater Unified School District’s Fund 41 can be used for, and the effort to build a sign outside the High School came to a head this week.

Over the past several months, District Administrator Mark Elworthy and Business Director Matt Sylvester-Knudtson have asked for clarification over the intent of Fund 41 and possibly receive approval from the board to use monies from Fund 41, which is to be used for maintenance and grounds.

“The resolution was a little unclear,” Sylvester-Knudtson said.

The district’s legal counsel sent a memo to Sylvester-Knudtson following the September School Board meeting regarding Fund 41.

“The board of a unified school district has the powers and duties conferred on the school board an annual meeting of a common school district. Wis. Stat. 120.44(2) Section 120.10(10m) of the Wisconsin Statutes permits common school districts to create a fund specifically designated for financing current and future capital expenditures,” the memorandum reads.

The memo also states that a unified school board can also “vote a tax to create a fund for the purpose of financing all current and future capital expenditures related to buildings and sites. All money raised through taxation or otherwise collected pursuant to this subsection shall deposited by the school district treasurer in a segregated fund. Such money shall not be used for any other purpose or be transferred to any other fund except by authorization by a majority vote of the electors present at a subsequent annual meeting and only if notice that the issue would be on the agenda was included in the notice of the subsequent annual meeting.”

A motion to make a clarification to allow Fund 41 to be used for items like the sign for the High School, there was immediate disagreement.

“Technically, you can’t do that. This states that there has to be an annual meeting, and that won’t be until August,” School Board member Jim Stewart said.

“I disagree. This was always in place for things like this and we are just clarifying it,” School Board Clerk Steve Ryan said.

School Board Treasurer Brian Brunner suggested that it may be fine to go ahead with the clarification because it was just defining the purpose of the fund.

“No, we are redefining it,” Stewart said.

The motion to approve the clarification died on the floor because of the confusion.

The option to use funds out of Fund 10 for capital improvements was mentioned as a possibility.

“You could do that, but you may end up in a deficit,” Elworthy said, citing the unknowns of what could happen with most of the school year left and it not being budgeted for from the fund.

“I have a tough time voting for anything if we don’t know where the money is coming from,” Stewart said.

With it still being up in the air what fund will be used to pay for the sign, the board voted to table the purchase of the sign until next month’s meeting.

The goal has been to have the sign approved and built before the winter season hits, but every month it is tabled, the likelihood the project won’t be done until spring increases.

However, members did agree on a design. The design is one of two pillars of brick surrounding a video screen that will allow for announcements and postings. The top will be rectangular, in an effort to cut costs, as a rounded top.

After a donation to the district for a sign, the district will only pay approximately $30,000. Numbers will fluctuate and need updating because Burli Signs, the company hired to make the sign, had not given estimates exactly to what the board ultimately approved. The company only offered a design and estimates for one pillar of bricks.

The board also approved the location of the sign. It will run north to south along Walworth Avenue. However, that is subject to approval by the city’s Plan Commission.

Elworthy said following the meeting that the School Board’s attorney did not need to be present, even for topics like at Monday’s meetings.

“No. When people have questions, we just work to get clarification. So we’ll just touch base with him,” Elworthy said. “Those are good questions to have and the key is to make sure we know and we’re supportive.”

The attorney for the School Board is not required to attend the meetings.

When the board does approve the sign and where the funding will come from, the sign itself will be up for approval by the city Plan Commission.



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