GREEN BAY – Five candidates for the Green Bay School Board discussed budget deficits and administrative staffing at a candidates' forum organized by the Great Green Bay Voters League on Wednesday.
The candidates for three seats on April 2 are incumbents Brenda Warren and Kristina Shelton and rivals Paul Boucher, Eric Vanden Heuvel and John Jahnke.
Chair and Moderator Julie Larneth asked the candidates how they would have responded to a recent increase in the cost of insurance benefits for all district staff and proposed an alternative.
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The council began Monday to address a $ 5 million budget deficit by increasing employee deductibles and unhedged medical expenses as part of its self-financing insurance plan. This change is expected to save about $ 1 million a year.
Vanden Heuvel said that he had attended several sessions with the staff on the subject. "I've heard some people say we're balancing budgets on the backs of our teachers."
He disagrees with this statement as only $ 1 million has been put on teachers and other staff.
"I think we were in a difficult situation," he said, adding that he hoped the district would find other ways to reward teachers.
Warren said that she considered what the council had done as a way to prevent the school from increasing the deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses in the future.
"By increasing the deductibles, it has been proven that people pause before consulting a doctor. To make sure that they need to see a doctor today rather than going to emergencies, "Warren said.
Boucher said the district should work to generate income rather than making cuts.
"Rather than focusing on the cuts, we should try to earn more money if we could recruit students from outside the district to come to the schools … that is about ( $ 7,000) or $ 8,000 per student, "said Boucher.
Shelton described as "very complicated" the need to change health care for staff.
She voted no in the Monday meeting after talking to staff members who "felt that they had nothing left to give".
"I did not feel comfortable passing on this cost to teachers and staff without knowing all the possibilities," said Shelton.
Jahnke explained that his problem with this decision was that the district had increased its administrative level by 50% or $ 4 million since 2012.
"If the council and the district made more responsible decisions with their budget and brought more money to teachers throughout this period, then when the district would face increased health care costs, it would would go to see his teachers and support staff in a different way. " position, "he said.
Applicants were also asked where they would look to make administrative cuts to put more money in the classroom. Shelton spoke of teachers' concerns about the increase in class size when they were told that the budget deficit was due to declining enrollment.
Shelton said that teachers asked him why, if the number of registrations decreased, class sizes increased.
"We feel we are too many and that teachers feel that they are not being supported (…), so we need to get them involved in the discussion and solve this problem," Shelton said. .
Jahnke said the board needed to determine whether these positions were valuable compared to smaller classes.
"Is it only layers to which teachers respond or bring them value?" He asked.
Vanden Heuvel stated that he did not know if the district had a lot of directors, but as a member of the board of directors, he would work to determine the necessary administrative positions.
"Once we can define this work, then we can design the organization to support it," he said.
Sometimes people in management positions are a transfer of savings, Warren said. In some cases, the district can save money on overtime by paying an employee.
"Our directors work hard and they work a lot," said Warren.
Fifty percent of recent additions of directors took place in schools and included directors and assistant directors, she said.