Whitefish Bay School District Won't Cut Funding for Rec Department

Review of funding came in response to calls for reductions made at school district's annual meeting.

After a and funding for the , the School Board has re-examined and reaffirmed its funding for the department.

Carin Keland, director of the Whitefish Bay Recreation and Community Education Department, said a packed house — about 20 to 25 people — attended a School Board committee meeting last week to show their support, and others wrote letters to the School Board. She said those residents — ranging from young families to seniors — showed strong support for the community programs.

"They expressed that this is a community resource that reaches out to the entire community, not just families that attend public school," she said. "That theme kept coming up, that people really view this service as an asset to the community, and that these programs are a specific draw for people to live in the community and they make Whitefish Bay a great place to live."

The meeting was held in response to comments made by members of the public at the district's annual meeting in September. At that meeting, resident Michael Braun made a motion to cut the property tax levy by $200,000 with the aim of reducing the scope of the recreation department, which he claimed loses $369,000 per year. The cut would have left the department with $175,000 per year, which Braun said would be enough to fund crossing guards while reducing funding for other community programs.

At last week's meeting, recreation department officials presented information about its finances and offerings, and the board decided to maintain its current level of funding. Whitefish Bay Superintendent Mary Gavigan said district administration was not recommending a change in funding for the department.

"We believe the services provided through the department are valued services in the community, and the fees and tax levy are comparable to neighboring school districts," she said. "By the end of the discussion, the board had an opportunity to hear residents speak, and through consensus, the board confirmed the current level of levy support."

Because the board reached a consensus at the committee meeting, Gavigan said it will not be placed on the agenda for a regular School Board meeting.

The recreation department has been providing services for more than 65 years. The department also provides the crossing guard program, and manages reservations for the Cahill Pavilion and community use of district playing fields.

The School Board has funded the department since 1968. The board levied $470,450 for the Recreation Department this year, and in the past four years, support has hovered at about $480,000 annually.

Last school year, Whitefish Bay's Recreation Department levy was comparable to Nicolet's. Whitefish Bay had a levy of $482,322, Nicolet had a levy of $409,651 and Shorewood had a levy of $1.14 million.

At the same time, Whitefish Bay's Recreation Department brought in $1.05 million in revenue, while Nicolet's brought in $865,285 and Shorewood's brought in nearly $2 million.

The department currently offers 859 different activities, with 566 activities offered last school year and 849 activities offered in the 2009-2010 school year.

In the 2009-10 school year, the department had 12,896 participants, and last school year, the number of participants dropped to 11,587, possibly due to referendum construction and the closure of the high school pool.

This school year, 3,978 participants have been involved so far. Roughly 89 percent of the participants each year live in Whitefish Bay.

StaynConnected November 25, 2011 at 09:17 PM
WFB taxpayer Great points. A 64 percent subsidy is unjustified for this program. The Rec Department provides some valuable services for WFB and other area residents. But they need to find a way to increase their revenues and trim some of their expenses.
Bob McBride November 25, 2011 at 09:31 PM
I agree as well. This is the perfect example of the kinds of things that should be funded primarily by user fees.
Jamie Kowalski November 28, 2011 at 01:29 AM
Despite what the Dept Director was quoted as saying about the packed house attending the Annual School Board Meeting to show their support, when Michael Braun made the motion to cut the Community Rec and Ed Dept budget by $200,000, there were enough votes in favor (about 15) to pass it. While some parliamentary maneuvers delayed the acceptance of that vote , the voters on the losing side of the that motion were allowed time to tweet and call their supporters, who arrived on white horses, in time to outnumber and, when a 2nd motion was made, to outvote the supporters of the 1st motion. User fees are the way to handle the cost of non-essential services that some will use. Too bad we don't have the courage to make the "tough" choices now, when taxpayers are being crushed by levies and taxes at all government levels, while their incomes, investments and retirement funds are being devastated. What will we do when they become even tougher?
Jeff Rumage November 28, 2011 at 05:03 AM
Just to clarify, the Rec Dept. Director was referring to a packed house of supporters at the School Board committee meeting last week, not the annual School Board meeting where the levy was set.
Jamie Kowalski November 28, 2011 at 02:13 PM
Thanks for the clarification. However, it might be interesting to know why the process pointed out regarding the vote to cut the levy, was not covered in the "press"? can you explain that?


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