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Janesville School Board candidate views vary

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Frank Schultz
March 21, 2013

— Janesville School Board candidates differ on how they would spend taxpayers' dollars.

The candidates spoke at a forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters and Janesville Area Council PTA on Wednesday night.

Six candidates are vying for three seats in the April 2 elections.

Candidates were asked how they would evaluate the district's budget and what the district's greatest capital need is. Their answers, in order:

-- Incumbent Peter Severson it's about whether the budget balances.

Severson noted the board took about $4 million from reserves to balance this year's budget, so that means a $4 million hole for next year.

"I think we have a huge problem just balancing the budget this year," he said.

Severson said the board's five-year plans for capital maintenance and information technology will be a challenge to fund, and the board "at some point" might have to consider a referendum to fund them.

-- Incumbent Karl Dommershausen agreed a balanced budget should be the measuring stick but disagreed with Severson's analysis.

Dommershausen calculated a district surplus of about $8 million that should easily cover a $4 million deficit.

"The danger is, we don't want to squander it," Dommershausen said.

The money should go to the reserves, he said, but "it might give us the opportunity to move ahead that we haven't had in the past."

-- Diane Eyers said she would judge the budget based on funds available, and that's a problem.

The district doesn't know how much money it will have until after the school year starts, said Eyers, who said she has been following the board for two years.

"It's always a struggle on how much we're going to have and how much we're going to have left," Eyers said.

Eyers said every school needs something, so it will be difficult to fund those needs.

-- Incumbent Kristin Hesselbacher said she would look at how the budget balances the diverse needs of all students with needs of taxpayers in tough economic times.

"The IT budget needs our attention because there are some potentially amazing instructional things we could be doing if we had the technology to support it," Hesselbacher said.

-- Fredrick Jackson said the approximate revenue is known in advance, so if the board budgeted based on a revenue forecast, "rather than assuming and moving forward and not meeting that goal," it would eliminate problems.

Jackson agreed the district needs an information technology upgrade.

-- Cathy Myers said her yardstick is the educational benefit.

Myers said her decisions would be based on the students' best interests.

The result would be a better community, which would attract business and jobs, she said.

"I think IT is the future. I have a master's degree in integrating IT in the classroom, and that's where it's at," she said.



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