The Winona Area Public Schools (WAPS) Board voted to adopt a 2.8 percent reduction for its preliminary property tax levy for the coming year. The vote means the district will levy no more than $11.79 million for the district budget, since levy figures are permitted to decrease, but not increase, when the final budget is adopted in December.
The board discussed the looming budget cuts, reductions of about $500,000 that must be made over the next three years. (See next Sunday's edition of the Winona Post.) During the meeting last week, school board members also took a careful look at some of the current year's expenses, peppering administrators with questions about football coach staffing levels.
The discussion came during a routine vote to approve more than $100,000 for various coaching and advisory positions at the middle and high schools, including those who oversee activities like the National Honor Society, prom, soccer, volleyball, tennis, cross country, marching band and football. Questions were raised about the number of coaching positions used for the football programs: ten at the high school, seven at the middle school. Administrators explained that although there are ten coaches at the high school, there are actually only eight positions, with several positions split among more than one coach.
After a round of questioning, the board approved the coaching positions. Board member Steve Schild said it was important for district leaders to look closely at the budget and at spending to see the real costs of programs, in light of necessary budget cuts.
Pledge of Allegiance
Although the board had asked administration for a new policy in which the Pledge of Allegiance would be recited at school more often, last week the proposed change was rejected, as the majority of members favored the current practice.
Board member Ben Baratto had asked administrators to consider a new policy, one that would have the Pledge said at least once a week.
Minnesota statute stipulates the Pledge be recited at least once a week, although no one is ever forced to do so, an exception also required by law. The state statute also allows for any district to waive the requirement annually, as WAPS boards have done since 2005.
Under current practice, all elementary schools recite the Pledge each morning, except Goodview, where it is recited only on Mondays and Fridays, over the intercom. At the middle and high schools, reciting the Pledge is left to the discretion of each classroom teacher.
Last week, Superintendent Scott Hannon said administrators had discussed the matter extensively, and that the group recommended the district continue with the current waiver. It's easier, he said, and everyone is used to it.
All board members voted aye on the waiver, with the exception of Baratto.