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  Thursday January 29th, 2015    

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$1.55M plan would drain WAPS reserves (04/21/2013)
By Chris Rogers

Five-million, four-hundred eighty thousand dollars—that is how much the Winona Area Public Schools (WAPS) plans to spend over the next five years on durable goods from desks to roofing, according to a draft capital spending plan presented to the School Board last week. The plan for such spending in 2014 is $1.55 million and includes buying iPads for every school. If the district follows through on the plan, it will reduce its operating capital reserves by more than half by the end of 2014 and by more than 80 percent by the end of 2016.

Operating capital is the official term for money the district uses for purchases of all kinds of durable goods—technology purchases and building improvements make up the lion's share of the 2014 plan. Operating capital dollars come primarily from local property taxes, are based on enrollment, and cannot be used for other types of expenditures. The district has reserves from savings in previous years, but spending that exceeds revenue will deplete those. The draft plan for 2014 includes $540,000 more in spending than the district will receive in revenue.

On top of that, if the district's enrollment declines in the next few years— as it is expected to — so will the revenue the district receives each year for operating capital. And there is more.

"Here's the bad news," Financial Director Dan Pyan told the board, presenting a $4.2 million list of future needs not on the current plan. "These are things that are needed, we just don't have all the money to do them."

That list includes nearly $1 million for carpet replacement, nearly $800,000 for roof replacement, $400,000 for tennis courts, and many thousands more for fields, lockers, doors, and desks.

iPads and parking lots

Technology is the single largest expenditure in the plan with $132,000 for teacher laptops, $83,950 for new Smartboards, and $86,856 for iPads, apps, and accessories. The iPad funding will provide 10 tablets to every elementary school in the district and 30 each for the middle school and high school. The Rollingstone school currently has iPads, which were funded by $40,000 raised by the Rollingstone community, for all of its students.

District staff said the plan is for kids to work in small groups and share iPads in 2014 while teachers learn how to incorporate the technology into lessons. Then the district plans to invest in more iPads in 2015 so that each school would have enough tablets for every student in any one given classroom. District staff did not present specific figures for that second phase of iPad spending, but the total planned technology budget for 2015 is $621,000.

"We're doing the best we can with what we get [in revenue]," Pyan said. "We even reduced our technology budget down to $350,000 just to stay afloat, and generally a district this size needs about $400,000 just to keep up with technology. So you can see that takes up almost 30 to 40 percent of your budget, and then you're just 'band-aiding' things together."

Building maintenance is the second largest expenditure planned for 2014, though it drops to a fraction of total expenditures after that year. The largest expenditures under that heading include $130,965 for roof replacement at Jefferson Elementary School; $105,800 for replacing a portion of the high school parking lot; $105,000 to replace the driveway and stairs on the north side of Jefferson; and $74,900 for desks at the high school.

Decision ahead

for final plan

All of the figures mentioned above are based on a draft spending plan proposed by district staff. Whether items are cut, added, or changed is up to the board. The board is required to approve a final plan this summer.

Pyan told the board, "If you have any issues with anything that we're doing, in all seriousness, it's fine to question it. We can pull things out and put things in." 


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