PdC school board answers budget questions, approves graduation requirements

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By Steve Van Kooten


At the December Board of Education meeting for the Prairie du Chien School District, a member of the community stood before the board and administration with questions about faculty retirement benefits and budget management.

The major issues involved compensation for retiring teachers/staff sick days, school district budget and district debt management.

At the Jan. 8 meeting, the school district submitted written and verbal responses to the citizen’s concerns, which included data compiled by Vicki Waller, the district’s business official, and information provided by Andy Banasik, District Administrator. Both were present at the meeting.

Also present were board members Lonnie Achenbach, Michael Higgins, Jr., Thomas Peterson, Dustin Brewer, Lacie Anthony, Nick Gilberts and Jim Hackett. The district’s four principals were present during the meeting.

Achenbach read from a statement to address each of the citizen’s concerns.

Achenbach stated the district had only run over budget in 2022-23. In 2019 the district had increased its fund balance $720,000; in 2020 the fund balance was increased approximately $850,000; and $1.3 million in 2021. In 2022-23 the fund balance decreased $940,000; however, $500,000 was set aside for roofing projects and $400,000 toward special education/high needs students. “So, we haven’t been overspending like the concerned citizen brought up.”

“The whole gist of the matter is we’re not overspending; we increased the fund balance for three years, and the fourth year we put more away in other places,” Achenbach said.

The school’s released statement indicated the Prairie du Chien School District completed a defeasance in the summer of 2023 for the current debt held by BAIRD. Achenbach said it was estimated the debt would be paid off four to five years earlier than the debt’s initial 20 year lifespan.

The board had approved the payment of sick days to retiring teachers at the end of their tenure. The statement noted the practice had started in 2010 after Wisconsin Teachers Unions lost many benefits, and the School Board had made a recommendation to the employee handbook in 2011-12.

The approved policy would allow retiring teachers in the district to receive a maximum of $150 per day for up to 120 unused sick days. The maximum pay out to a faculty member would be $18,000.

“The only way they get this is if they retire in our district,” Banasik added. “It’s a great support for our teaching staff, who do a tremendous job with our kids.”

The statement also said the benefit was only available to Pre-ACT staff members who retire in the Prairie du Chien School District.


Graduation Requirements

Doug Moris, High School Principal, introduced a recommendation to change the school district’s graduation requirements.

The district’s current requirements include 28 credits: four English, five Math, five Science, three Social Studies, two Physical Education, a half-credit in Health and 8.5 elective credits.

The proposed changes would still require 28 credits, but Math and Science credits would decrease to four while Social Studies would increase from three to four.

“We’ll have a true 4x4: four years to the four core areas,” Moris stated. “I don’t want to change what they take in the department but drop one elective each.”

The remaining credit subtracted from the Science department would be shifted to two separate classes: Personal Finance and a careers course. Moris said 94 percent of students took each of the courses and suggested Wisconsin will make Personal Finance a required course.

“Personal Finance will be required in 2027,” Banasik added. “The state just passed that.”

Morris lauded both courses and said, “The benefits of that class [Personal Finance] are amazing for what the kids are learning.”

Moris also said the careers course would include leadership training, skills training and a community service project “so that our students can work outside the school and be part of our community.”

The revised requirements would retain 8.5 elective courses for students; however, three of those electives would be designated to a Career and Technical Education (CTE) class, a fine arts class and a foreign language course. Each student would be required to take an elective course from a selection under each of the three areas.

“The way we are sitting right now, a student can graduate from our school and never take a CTE course. It’s not a requirement,” Moris said. The requirements would, according to Moris, produce more well-rounded graduates. “Our kids have to be exposed to this.”

Moris stated the plan would not incur additional costs to the district, result in no added or subtracted positions or change requirements within any of the core departments.

The board approved the changes unanimously.


Futures of PdC

Kyle Teynor, President of Futures of Prairie du Chien, WI, announced Jonathan Day gifted $650,000 to the Futures in December 2023. The donation was given for the continued funding of scholarship awards. The organizations total endowment has now surpassed $1.1 million.

Futures of Prairie du Chien is a non-profit started in 1992 that has provided more than $400,000 in scholarships to graduating seniors from Prairie du Chien schools.

“This would not be possible without the gift from Jon Day, and I feel like Jon Day and the Day Family should be recognized for their gift toward the Futures of Prairie du Chien,” Teynor said. A memo released by Teynor to the Board of Education stated the organizations ability to fund scholarships for students took “a major leap forward” due to the gift.

Teynor also stated Futures had received $20,000 in donations to provide a $1,000 scholarship each year for 20 years to a district employee. The award could be used at the recipient’s discretion, though the donors had asked the money not be used to off-set costs to the district.

The statement said the scholarship was a way to “recognize the tremendous work employees of the district do to prepare students to reach their highest academic potential.”


Roofing Project

Waller stated the low bidder for the High School’s roofing project was Northern Metal Roofing with a $781,844 bid. She noted part of the deal was that the project would be completed by June 30, 2024, which is the end of the fiscal year.

Banasik stated there were four bids from companies, which included Carlisle and Holcim Elevate. 

The next project would be BA Kennedy’s roof and three partitions at Bluff View. The cost of the project was estimated at $750,000. The district had allocated approximately $700,000 for project costs.

“I think the board did a tremendous job not having to go to referendum on the roofs,” Banasik said. 

Waller stated there was money in Fund 41 that could be allocated to the high school roof project. Banasik noted  the money was leftover from a building project in 2017.

Waller stated the district would likely “cut the check” for the project until June 2024, so the Fund 41 balance did not have to be moved to the general fund immediately. The money could also be used for other purposes.

Achenbach stated, “I think we use that money for the roofs since that’s what was intended.”

The board approved to proceed with the bid from Northern Metal Roofing and to transfer the money in Fund 41 to the general fund for project costs.

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