School District annual meeting sparsely attended

Slight tax levy increase projected

By Tracy Ouellette

The East Troy Community School District had its annual meeting Monday night in the Little Prairie Primary School cafeteria, and the district’s residents didn’t seem to care.

With the exception of Eric Kramer, who received the district’s Volunteer of the Year award, and his wife, Sara Rubel, no one from the community showed up for the annual meeting.

Kramer, who is a photographer for the newspaper, was given the award for all his work in promoting the district and its children through his photography and volunteer time.

District Business Manager Kathy Zwirgzdas said Kramer was the district’s “public relations” department and cited his countless hours covering school activities and athletics.

While Kramer is paid for the photos that ap-

pear in the newspaper, he often takes photos for the district that aren’t published.

“I’m not sure people realize how much time you give up,” East Troy High School Co-Principal Stacey Kuehn said Monday night.

“As all of you know, there are a lot of volunteers that make this work,” Kramer said. “I am honored. I don’t think anyone volunteers to get recognition, but it does feel good.”

State of the District

District Administrator Chris Hibner gave his annual State of the District presentation after the award presentation.

He began by talking about the district’s “celebrations” such as its commitment to personalized learning and the addition of SmartLabs at all the schools, being the first in the state to have them and the first in the country to have a SmartLab in a primary school, among others.

Hibner said student growth was a top priority and that 48 to 58 percent of the district’s children either meet or exceed their individual growth targets from year to year in math and reading. He said the personalized learning

environments were helping to “focus on the learner.”

Hibner also acknowledged the challenges facing the district with declining enrollment, open enrollment, funding and politics being some of the issues he touched on.

Setting the budget

The annual meeting is a chance for the public to provide the district with input on the annual budget.

While the budget is not finalized until later in fall, a projected budget and tax levy are presented at the annual meeting. Because of the uncertainty with the state’s biennial budget until just recently, Zwirgzdas said she projected a 0 percent increase in revenue for the district in the 2017-18 budget.

Zwirgzdas said the state budget has an increase in per pupil aid, but no increase in state aid for schools this year and the schools won’t know how much state aid they get until Oct. 15. The property values, which have been lower for East Troy in recent years, also won’t be released until Oct. 1.

“Right now there are too many unknown factors to say for sure what the levy will be. It’s an estimate now, it could go up, it could go down, we just don’t know yet,” Zwirgzdas said Tuesday.

The proposed tax levy increase Zwirgzdas presented to the board Monday for next year was 1.94 percent.

Because there were no residents at the annual meeting, instead of running through the budget in detail, Zwirgzdas offered to teach her “Finance 101” to the board on how school funding works. She said it was the “class” she gave the district’s teachers at the beginning of the school year as part of the back-to-school preparations.

The presentation, complete with slides and fictional space aliens and their school needs, outlined the difficulty in funding schools with revenue limits and less state aid.

In a nutshell, Zwirgzdas said the district has about the same amount of money to spend this year as it did in the 2010-11 school year. That’s why the district has to make deep cuts every year to the budget, Zwirgzdas said.

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