8 thoughts on “Madison School District Fall Referendum Video”

  1. I sent the following email to the MMSD School Board, because I would like to know how the money freed up under the revenue cap will be used in the 06-07 school budget.
    Dear School Board Members,
    I have questions on public information provided on the MMSD website – http://www.mmsd.org/budget/ref06/factsheet.htm:
    1. The MMSD website information says that if the referendum fails, finances for the construction may come from the general operating budget. I thought the School Board decided during the recent budget discussions that the debt service for this would be paid through the operating budget if the referendum fails and that program/service cuts to pay for this had already been identified. Is that correct?
    2. If the referendum passes, money will be saved in the operating budget for the debt service costs for the Leopold addition and for $3.1 million in current debt. The refinancing of $3.1 million is estimated to save $516,000 for 6 years, how much will be saved by moving the financing of the Leopold addition to the referendum? Where is this money in the 06-07 school budget (what department), and how will this “saved” money be used in the 06-07 school budget?
    Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions. I believe it is important for the public to know how the revenue cap “relief funds” will be expended.

  2. Ed
    “A new high school”? I don’t believe that’s on the ballot.
    These are good questions.
    On the first, I think the “may” is a reflection of how one defines the operating budget. There are things like the Contingency Fund, Fund 38 and (maybe) Fund 40 that could be considered separate from the “operating budget” but do fall under the revenue caps. I think under or not under the revenue caps is the key distinction.
    As to having identified where the cuts will come from or where revenues freed by moving things from under the revenue caps would be used, my understanding is that the current board is pretty limited in how it can dictate the budget decsions of future boards (and that is how it should be, we have regular elections for a reason). So, there is plan in place (as there should be), but that plan is not binding. I appreciate your desire to have as much information as possible but some questions can only be answered by future School Boards.
    All this is my understanding and not any kind of official response. I know more about this than most, but I get confused too. Please excuse any errors, this was done in our shared spirit of open and (I hope) informed discussion.

  3. TJM
    Thanks for the comments and observations. I’m aware the School Board only approves the budget for one year, and I understand/agree the current School Board is limited in what it can dictate for the future. My understanding is that the money that would be considered “revenue cap relief” is in the Business Services budget when approved in June 2006. Any changes to the 06-07 budget would require 5 votes of the School Board.
    To me, when the School Board approved the budget, they were approving the expenditure of funds in Business Services to pay for the debt service. However, if (when) the referendum passes, there will not be the expenditures necessary for the debt service, because the debt would transfer to another fund and funding source. I’m sure Business Services would find ways to spend that money and would argue that the School Board approved $x million for Business Services; however, the School Board did make cuts to the schools, and I would like too see our School Board revisit their list of cuts for the 06-07 budget and publicly discuss how the “saved” dollars would be used for the coming year. If we were talking about $50,000, I wouldn’t think much about that necessary, except it is one teacher. However, upwards of $500,000 represents a considerable sum of money (to me) that could, if the Board majority decided, be put to use in the schools.

  4. Barb
    I like the optimism you displayed with the parenthetical “when.”
    My understanding is that the 2006-7 budget allocation for the Leopold project is $291,983.75. It is also my understanding that the Board has indicated (decided?) that if the referendum passes, that money (less finance costs) will be moved to the Contingency Fund (not kept in Business Services). Again, it is my understanding that the older debt refinance money will have already been spent, and the refinance savings will only be in part of the budgets of the following years.
    It does get confusing.
    Although I share your desire to see some recent cuts restored as soon as possible (maybe not the identical list), I wonder about the logistics of examining and implementing supplemental budget allocations in November, December and January (we all know that these things take time). I think realistically any programatic impacts will have to wait for the 2007-8 budget.
    All the above caveats apply. I’m working with CAST, but did not consult to get an “official answer.”

  5. TJM
    Thanks for you comments. I hope I hear from the School Board in response to my questions. If, or when, I do, I’ll post their response.

  6. The original discussion re. where the Leopold money would go, was more specific on where it would end up. E.g. in-school positions, supplies, etc. that were eliminated or cut when we created the budget last spring.
    The wording of the motion that the board passed had the money going to contingency. [I should note that the vote was 5-0, not 7-0 as implied by the papers. Ruth Robarts and I had work related obligations at the time of the 5:00 meeting due to the beginning of the academic year at UW-Madison.]
    The board can vote to move the money where it chooses from contingency, but this is very different from specifying that the funds would go to the elementary, middle, or high school budgets.
    I indicated my preference that the entire board be able to be there for the vote but didn’t get very far.

  7. Art Rainwater has been very helpful in responding to my questions re refinancing of funds if (when) the referendum passes. I still have questions re the $516,000 when the non-Leopold dollars are refinanced and will post answers when available. The School Board resolution re moving dollars to the Contingency Fund was passed on August 28, 2006.
    Here’s our email exchange:
    Again, thank you for responding and information. Passing the referendum will certainly help reduce total budget cuts for next year.
    By your response, it appears that the unpaid, but budgeted, finance charges for the new Leopold addition debt service will go into the contingency fund and is about $276,000 and that the School Board has approved this transfer of funds. That’s great. I did not realize the School Board had made this decision. I thought the School Board’s decision was to reimburse the district’s “revenue cap” budget any money spent on the new school prior to the referendum, and these reimbursed funds would be placed in a Contingency Fund. I found the August 28, 2006 School Board resolution, which gave the details and further cleared up my confusion.
    Will any of the funds spent on the new school planning/design be reimbursed by the referendum if (when) it passes? How much has been spent?
    However, am I to understand from your answer that the “saved” finance charges for the other debt have already been paid for the entire year and will not be available until the 07-08 school year? In the discussion recorded in the August 28, 2006 School Board minutes, it says: ” Refinancing for other projects will not free up funds because the monies will already have been committed by the time of the referendum.” What will these funds have been committed for other than what was approved last June by the School Board – paying for debt with these monies? If the referendum passes, won’t this debt be refinanced immediately as well? What does “will already have been committed” mean?
    I would have thought the same would be true for the non-new Leopold addition debt – there would have been about $516,000 (estimated annual “savings” if referendum passes as stated on the MMSD video) minus the finance charges already paid this year. If (hopefully when) the referendum passes, am I to understand this “other” debt would not be refinanced right away? Why would the district do that?
    Again, thank you for responding to my questions.
    On 9/22/06 1:48 PM, “Art Rainwater” wrote:
    > Barb
    > I am not in the office so I don’t have the exact amount ot the debt service
    > for the Leopold addition. My recollection is that it is about $276,000. All
    > of that less what finance charge we have for the part of the year that we have
    > this loan would go into the Reserve for Contingency this year. The debt
    > service on the other loan will not be available until the 2007-08 school year.
    > It would help reduce the amount of reductions that we would have to make in
    > this next budget cycle.
    > —- Original Message —-
    > From: “Schrank Family”
    > Date: 9/22/06 10:12 am
    > To: “Art Rainwater”
    > Cc: “Email Comments”
    > Subj: Re: Revenue Cap Relief – How will the money be used?
    > Art,
    > Thank you. I did watch the video.
    > How much money for the Leopold addition would transfer to the contingency
    > fund for the 06-07 budget?
    > How much money for the debt reduction would there be? Where is that money?
    > I do not believe the board has made a decision re these funds? Are there
    > plans for such a discussion? The video says about $516,000 would be
    > available for each of six years to reduce overall cuts to the budget? Does
    > that include this school year? Or would those savings begin next school year
    > (Œ07-¹08) even though the referendum would be approved in November 2006?
    > Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions.
    > Barb Schrank
    > On 9/22/06 9:41 AM, “Art Rainwater” wrote:
    >> Barb
    >> Answers to your questions:
    >> 1. The funds to pay the debt service for the Leopold Addition were included
    >> in this years budget. Therefore, the cuts have already been made and
    >> approved
    >> by the BOE.
    >> 2. The Board of Education made the decision last month to transfer the money
    >> set aside for debt service for the Leopold addition from the debt service
    >> account in Business Services to the Reserve for Contingency if the referendum
    >> passes. If the funds are in the Reserve for Contingency they are controlled
    >> by Board and can only be expended with 5 affirmative votes.

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