Scaling back cuts still an option for Whitewater
WHITEWATER Whitewater school officials say it's too early to gauge whether $410,000 saved by changing health insurance will allow the district to reconsider cuts in next year's budget.
The cost of the district's new health insurance agreement is 12 percent less than last year's plan, providing more savings than expected when the school board nearly a month ago approved cuts in its 2011-12 budget.
Dropping the boys tennis and girls golf programs were among 18 cuts made to shrink a $450,000 shortfall to just $4,500. The board acknowledged at that meeting it could revisit some of the cuts if it found savings elsewhere.
School Board President Chuck Nass said it's too soon to reconsider the cuts, but the option is on the table. Business Manager Nathan Jaeger agreed the lower insurance expense is a promising start, but many unknowns remain. Those include utility costs and expenses for outsourced duties formerly managed by the buildings and grounds director, a position among those eliminated next year.
Total insurance savings remain questionable, Jaeger said. Union members, support staff and non-represented staff all carry separate insurance agreements, and until the district can determine a more definitive cost, it's difficult to estimate overall savings, he said.
The school board last week voted to remain with the state's union-created health insurance company, Wisconsin Education Association Trust. Its plans weren't the cheapest—Dean Health Plan provided bigger savings—but board members and union representatives favored WEA Trust to ensure continuity of coverage.
Whitewater Teachers Union President Diana Callope said during a May 31 meeting that switching carriers could force some beneficiaries to change doctors. The board also decided to stay with WEA Trust for dental coverage after WEA agreed to match the lower costs of another company.
It's unclear how the board would prioritize if it decides to scale back on some cuts. Capital projects could be near the top of that list of items to be restored.
Jaeger detailed several improvements needed across the district, including resurfacing the high school track. He told the board last month he believed the track should garner some consideration because of its ability to generate revenue for the district by hosting meets.
Eliminating the boys tennis and girls golf programs provided some of the smallest savings in the budget, but they drew many comments from parents during a public hearing May 26. Some of the biggest reductions included restructuring the physical education department to save $90,000, and a 5 percent reduction in building and central office budgets, cutting $36,000.