NEILLSVILLE SCHOOL LEVY APPROVED
Tuesday, August 26th, 2008 -- 11:36 am
Posted by Riley Hebert-News Director
Neillsville School District residents unanimously approved a proposed tax levy last night.
The numbers are subject to change, but the proposed budget is $10.6-million, an increase of less than one-percent from the 07-08 budget. The amount local property taxpayers would cover—known as the levy—is $3.2-million, a 2-percent decrease from last year's proposed levy.
The levy was approved on a vote of 24-0.
Superintendent John Gaier explained many of the proposed numbers are subject to change pending property values, state aid and a looming $300,000 referendum.
It was a small crowd, but still a bit larger than recent annual meetings.
While there was minimal public comment, there were a few questions raised about teachers' salaries and benefits.
Referring to the budget document, which lists the salaries of district employees, district resident Ken Friemoth noted they are getting compensated well.
Salaries for full-time teachers range from around $42,000 to nearly $77,000.
Friemoth said times were tough in the private sector and teachers should have to pay more for their health insurance.
"You guys are making, probably three-times more than the average person out there," Friemoth claimed, "A lot of them (private sector employees) don't even have health insurance. Some of the people I know have a $5,000 deductible."
"I hate to say it, but I think that's what needs to be done here. You guys have to do it now; we've been doing it for a long time."
Teachers pay 10-percent of their premiums, according to the budget document.
Resident Bob Bell also expressed questions about a district policy that provides health insurance for some teachers who agreed to retire early.
Gaier explained that was a negotiated item that couldn't be changed during the budget meeting.
Gaier said it costs the district about $218,000 per year.
Bell said he hoped the referendum, if approved, would be used for instruction and not retirement benefits for teachers.
"Are you going to discontinue that?" Bell asked.
"That would have to be a negotiated item. There have been changes made through negotiations already," Gaier responded.
Herman Seebandt, a retired teacher, noted many teachers put in extra time that isn't always noticed by the public. He thought teachers' duties should be listed along with their salaries.
Board member Rick Opelt said many of the teachers had obtained education beyond their 4-year degrees that justified higher salaries.
"A lot of these teachers have extended educations. Some of them have Master's Degrees. It looks big on here, but if you go into the private sector, you wouldn't work for this," Opelt said, "Teachers stick in a lot of time and they're warranted to have this kind of a salary."
The date of next year's annual meeting is already set for August 24.
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