Waterloo school officials address fiscal questions
The Monroe County Taxpayers Association met with two members of the Waterloo School Board and superintendent Brian Charron last Wednesday night to address questions and concerns about recent school district expenditures.
The association’s most vocal member, Harry Reichert, expressed concern that the board had accepted a bid for a new concession stand with restrooms to be built near the Waterloo High School baseball and softball fields that will cost more than $167,000, and also inquired about the cost of summer asphalt projects, junior high school maintenance and tax rate increases.
During the two-hour meeting, Charron and board members Steve Wheat and Johnny Caupert took the time to explain why the projects cost what they do and answered other questions posed by association members.
Reichert was worried about rumors he had heard about the district possibly tearing down the junior high school building and building a new one.
He said he believes the board should focus on repairing the building rather than rebuilding it.
“We as board members would not be responsible to you as taxpayers if we weren’t talking about the lifespan of a building that is now eight decades old,” Caupert said.
Charron said they have not fully investigated the WJHS building, so they as a board do not know exactly what the repairs will look like down the road.
“We have zero plans to tear down that building at this point,” Charron said. “But the conversation has been had that we’ll have to evaluate what the life expectancy of the building is. If it needs a $10 million renovation and that’s enough, then we’d much rather do that than spend $20-30 million on a new building. The last thing we want to do is try to sell another referendum.”
Charron talked about the $14.9 million reimbursement in Capital Development Board funds from the state as part of the 2006 WHS construction project, and how a portion of that was set aside for maintenance.
“The district put $5.9 million into the operations and maintenance fund,” Charron said. “A lot of that was twofold: to tackle some of the maintenance that had been neglected over the past several years because of financial reasons, and also to finish some of the projects that had been left undone.”
By the end of the summer, Charron said close to $1.9 million has been spent on projects such as asphalt resurfacing and resealing.
As for the concession stand, Charron explained that a large portion of the cost for the project can be attributed to plumbing and electricity for the restrooms that will be installed with the stand.
“We don’t have a concession stand that serves the softball and baseball fields, and we also don’t have restrooms that serve those
fields,” he said. “Ever since that high school has been there, there have been porta-potties for fans and players to use.”
He cited how post-season tournaments are often hosted at the WHS fields, and porta-potties really just are not practical for that amount of people.
“Making sure that everything meets ADA requirements is crucial,” Charron said. “They measure the amount of people who may show up for a game, and you have to have restrooms based on that amount. That’s why, even with the concession stand we have for football games, we have to have additional porta-potties even now.”
Charron also expressed interest in attending the association’s meetings periodically to answer any questions they may have regarding the school board’s monetary decisions.
At the school board meeting Monday evening, the Waterloo School Board voted unanimously to approve Columbia’s request to withdraw from the Perandoe Special Education District. Their vote is one of the nine votes that have to be cast before the Columbia district can withdraw from the co-op.
The management council, which is composed of the nine superintendents of the districts that make up Perandoe, met last week and voted on whether or not they wanted to approve the recommendation.
“In the recommendation to approve, only four of the nine in the management council recommended approval,” Charron said. “One of those four is Columbia, and the other three were myself, Valmeyer and Red Bud.”
The other districts voted against the recommendation. The only way for Columbia to exit Perandoe is a unanimous vote by all nine school districts for the withdrawal.
“It’s fair to assume at least five will vote no,” Charron said. If just one votes no, Columbia will have to appeal to the regional board of trustees.
The Waterloo school board weighed the pros and cons of approving the recommendation.
“Our cost for services will likely go up, or the amount of our services will go down, or some combination of the two,” Charron said. “At this point, Columbia is paying more than the services they are receiving from Perandoe. My personal basis for recommending approval is that I don’t believe it’s our place to pass that judgment on Columbia.”
Charron and the other board members agreed that they should support their neighbors in their decision to withdrawal and voted to approve the recommendation.
Also at the meeting:
•The tentative Waterloo school district budget is on display as of last week.
•The board approved the employmentof Rosanna McMillin as a full-time high school English teacher and voted to reemploy
Pamela Gorka as a speech/language pathologist.