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Village Board Cuts Funding for Nurse at Catholic Schools

Whitefish Bay trustees vote 5-2 to ax $8,000 for a health aide at St. Monica and Holy Family Parish schools.

Whitefish Bay trustees cut $8,000 from next year's budget for a part-time health aide at and , with most trustees saying municipal money should not be used to help fund private Catholic schools.

The conversation arose on the same day that a second case of whooping cough was confirmed at St. Monica School, according to Jackie Turkal, the village's School Health Coordinator. The just more than a week ago. Turkal said no cases of whooping cough have been confirmed at Whitefish Bay public schools.

When asked whether the whooping cough would have been identified without the health aide, Turkal said it would have. The parents notified the school of their child's diagnosis, and then the school notified the Health Department, Turkal said.

"The every day stuff of kids being sick and falling down is handled by the health aide, when she's there. If she's not, it's handled by the volunteer or the secretary," she said.

Village Manager Patrick DeGrave first identified the cost as a potential savings during the start of the village's budget process in October. Officials from both schools said the village has historically provided that funding, and more than 80 percent of the 350 families at the two schools live in Whitefish Bay.

In an e-mail conversation between DeGrave and St. Monica School Principal Julie Ann Robinson that was distributed to trustees, Robinson said the school has not budgeted for the health aide, who works 12 hours per week.

"Asking the village to come up with less than $8,000 to cover the cost of a health nurse in our two schools is insignificant within the bigger picture of what this cost could be if no private schools existed in Whitefish Bay," Robinson said.

Because the schools have not budgeted for the health aide this year, the trustees who opposed funding the position agreed to keep the money in this year's budget but drop it next year.

"I think we should not cut (the funding) in midstream of the school year," Trustee Jay Miller said.

The board voted 5-2 to make the cut next year, with trustees James Roemer and Richard Foster voting to retain the funding.

"Our village is attractive because of the safety and the family friendliness," Roemer said. "I think the decision to discontinue funding sends the wrong message to our residents."

Resident Steve Borenstein said he opposed public funding for private schools on the principle of fairness.

"It is really not the function of a village to be supporting a health aide in a private institution," he said. "I don't think the amount of money matters, but what I would worry about is the amount of money could grow."

Future village boards could decide to restore the funding, said Village Attorney Chris Jaekels.

This article was updated at 8:40 a.m. Tuesday.

CowDung December 20, 2011 at 06:16 PM
They are private schools, but taking steps to help keep children healthy is a matter of public health. Since it is an issue of public health, I don't mind seeing public money being spent to provide heath services at private schools. I do hope that all private schools are treated equally though--if the village provides funding for 1 private school, they should do the same for all private schools. If they choose to end funding for 1 private school, they should do the same for all private schools.
CowDung December 20, 2011 at 06:19 PM
Don't secular non-profit entities also enjoy the same property tax breaks as religious institutions do? It seems fair to include religious institutions if other non-profits are being given tax breaks...
Bob McBride December 20, 2011 at 06:31 PM
Michael, for some reason logic and common sense take a back seat to - I don't know what you want to call it - whenever the situation involves schools. If this were about, for instance, the Village picking up the tab to plow Sendik's parking lot, I think you could pretty much count on everyone thinking it would be a good idea not to do so. This really isn't any different than that - aside from the fact that it's a school issue.
CowDung December 20, 2011 at 07:17 PM
A difference could be a 'for profit' and 'non-profit' status of the entities in question. The Village providing 'free' services for a 'non-profit' entity seems more acceptable than providing 'free' services for a 'for profit' entity.
Bob McBride December 20, 2011 at 07:31 PM
Okay, well let's make it the Women's Club instead of Sendik's, then. I still think that more folks would be in agreement as regards defunding that than they would the $8K for Saint Monica's and Holy Family - even though both of those non-profits probably pull in a heck of a lot more revenue than does the Women's Club. I attended both schools (granted, many years back) and both had families for whom a gift of $8K, even back in those days, wouldn't have been much of a hardship. If we were talking about two destitute parishes with students coming from families who couldn't afford to take their kids to the doctors, maybe there would be at least a logical argument in support of the Village footing the bill for this. As that's not the case, there really isn't.
CowDung December 20, 2011 at 07:43 PM
Times are different, and church donations really aren't where they used to be. Parishes like Holy Family and St. Robert are operating on budgets that are much smaller than they were just a few years ago and are facing challenges in meeting their financial obligations. I will grant you that financial situation of a private institution is not reason alone for receiving public funding, but I don't think that public funding should be automatically denied if it served the larger good.
Jay Sykes December 20, 2011 at 07:48 PM
I agree, it is a public health issue and think it is appropriate to fund it with public funds, similar to the way the WI state statutes require the transportation funding collected(taxes) by school districts to be distributed to private schools that operate within their defined boundaries. ---- If one lives in a WI school district that provides transportation(school bus) and you attend a attend a private elementary or high school you(student) are entitled to transportation provided by the public school district in which the student resides ---
David Tatarowicz December 20, 2011 at 08:03 PM
@Bob McBride Here in Shorewood we just gave our Sendiks over $300,000 for grants loans etc --- in fact, our Village Board spends like drunken sailors on all kinds of "for profit" companies --- which I strongly disagree with !! And let's not forget how we are funding the For Profit Brewers and made Mr Selig million$ through taxpayer money ......... and in regards to property taxes, yes I believe ALL non profits, religious or not, should pay property taxes. It may limit to how fancy and what they build.
CowDung December 20, 2011 at 08:07 PM
Are you sure about that Lyle? http://www.mjds.org/support/ "Your financial support of MJDS allows us to continue to provide the next generation of students with an excellent Jewish and general studies education while simultaneously building a lifelong foundation for a positive Jewish identity. Please join us in maintaining and strengthening our great school! Make a secure online donation through PayPal. Your contribution is tax-deductible."
CowDung December 20, 2011 at 08:08 PM
...although, I'll agree that there is a difference between asking the public for money and asking for public money.
Lyle Ruble December 20, 2011 at 08:16 PM
@CowDung...It's not the responsibility of the public if a private institution has enough revenues to support their functions and services. If it becomes an issue of survivability then it's not the role of the government to step in. I think you need to reconsider your arguments and position. Bob McBride has it right.
CowDung December 20, 2011 at 08:17 PM
I'm not sure I'm willing to go that far yet, David. Granted that the current definition of 'non-profit' currently doesn't necessitate charitable work, but I'd rather see the money that you would like to collect as property tax to be spent on helping the poor and/or providing the social services that many of the non-profit entities provide. Perhaps we need to redefine what is required in order to qualify as a non-profit entity and be eligible for the benefits being given to non-profit organizations. If they provide a valuable service to the community, then I don't think it's a bad thing to give tax breaks.
Bob McBride December 20, 2011 at 08:17 PM
CD, it doesn't look like this was automatically denied. It's apparently been going on for a number of years and it appears they're going to not deny it this year (I assume that means 2012) so that the schools will have a year to figure out what they're going to do going forward. I'd still like to know what the combined attendance of these schools is so that it would become apparent what the actual cost/pupil will be going forward. I suspect it's minimal. I support what's being done on the state level to attempt to get local municipalities to look more closely at what they're spending on and to cut costs, where feasible. To me, this expense, while not a great one, fits the bill in that regard. If we want public schools to tighten the belts, then it isn't inconsistent to ask parochial schools to self-fund those items currently being provided by the taxpayer. If they have to tighten their belts to do so, so be it.
Lyle Ruble December 20, 2011 at 08:21 PM
@CowDung...Private donations support MJDS.
CowDung December 20, 2011 at 08:23 PM
Lyle: I don't think that my argument is based on the financial needs of the private organization. I specifically noted that financial needs should not be reason alone for the funding. What I do believe is that if the funding serves the greater good, then I think that providing the funding can be appropriate. For example, having the government give funding to a church that runs a soup kitchen may be a better 'investment' of public dollars than having the government start their own meal program...
CowDung December 20, 2011 at 08:28 PM
Bob: Yes, they aren't automatically denying the funding in the case of the nurse. I was speaking in more general terms of the government providing funding to private entities. It's a matter of how beneficial the investment of the public funds is to the community as a whole.
Lyle Ruble December 20, 2011 at 08:29 PM
@CowDung...Using religious non-profits to provide government funded services under contracts is fine. Organizations that provide these services cannot link religion with providing the services. This is a secular function. However, in the case of parochial schools, which are religious organizations, then taxpayer support is inappropriate.
CowDung December 20, 2011 at 08:30 PM
Correct--note my second post...
CowDung December 20, 2011 at 08:33 PM
What makes the funding of the nurse so inappropriate? The children being served by the publicly funded nurse are members of the community, and are not necessarily Catholic.
Lyle Ruble December 20, 2011 at 09:06 PM
@CowDung...Publicly funded services are usually prohibited from religious institutions. Following your argument, then what would stop funding private school lunch programs, etc. If this is all about public health, then I can also make the argument that all medical services could or should be done by the government under the auspices of public health.
235301 December 20, 2011 at 09:07 PM
I don't have a problem with what the board did here. Obviously the logic as well as most of the comments here are that it's a private entity and we shouldn't fund the private entity via government funds. Fine. Now, should the knife cut the other direction? If a parent chooses to send their child to private school instead of sending them to public school ought we not give the parent a large tax break given that they saved the taxpayer $1000s? Seems logical and fair to me. The high tax burden here in WFB keeps out some families who would like to live here but choose to send their children to private school. Why pay twice for a child's education? If that tax break was in place it might encourage some families to live here that otherwise wouldn't live here due to the financial pressures.
aaaaaa December 20, 2011 at 09:19 PM
Does the village of River Hills provide University School with a "free" nurse?
Lyle Ruble December 20, 2011 at 09:26 PM
@235301...If I follow your logic, then any public services I don't use, I should receive a refund.Wwhy don't we just privatize everything and pay for it if you use it. If you call the police to stop a burglery in progress, you would get a bill for say $500. We could go on and on.
CowDung December 20, 2011 at 09:42 PM
I thought that you liked the idea of a government sponsored 'healthcare for all' type of system...
235301 December 20, 2011 at 09:47 PM
This is a service you are specifically opting out of, not just simply not using it due to chance. The school district doesn't need to hire as many teachers and hence it keeps the burden lower on the school district. Why not refund that back to the parents in some way? And, yes, there are opt in services these days by governments. There was a story recently where the fire dept watched a persons house burn down because they hadn't paid the $75 fee to keep fire service. Certainly not everything can be privatized. And I think we're looking at a bigger mess with opt in services because there's a great number of people out there that aren't responsible and don't consider the consequences. Ala the story above. Had the person just been responsible and paid their dues the fire department would have taken care of her fire and saved their house. But no, public opinion is such that the fire dept is blamed for being callous.
David Tatarowicz December 20, 2011 at 10:01 PM
What particularly galls me is that when you call the police, they come and your taxes have paid for it. But when you call the fire dept for a medical emergency -- you get a bill despite the taxes you are paying !! If you talk to anybody in medical geriatrics or hospital ER's you can find many stories of heart attack victims who die on the way to the hospital in a private car, because they can no longer afford to call 911 for a heart attack --- or other serious recurring problem.
Jay Sykes December 20, 2011 at 10:16 PM
No, but if you live in the Nicolet(or its feeders) district, the amount of money that is that is collected to fund the bus service is refunded(by state statute) to the student to fund their transportation. The health nurse function is a community wide service, and not specificity an 'education function', very much like the transportation function. As such,the health nurse function should be funded following a methodology similar to transportation.
Jay Sykes December 21, 2011 at 01:15 AM
You owe our friends,the federal government, a big thank-you, David.
Jennifer Fails December 31, 2011 at 03:42 PM
Just a reminder 80% of the kids that go to St. Monica are Whitefish Bay residents so we pay taxes and we should get the benefit of helping to keep our kids healthy. The nurses aid has been working between the two schools for 20 plus years and she is an asset to the kids and to our community.
Bob McBride December 31, 2011 at 03:59 PM
Based on figures I found, combined enrollment for the two schools is approximately 750. 8K divided by 750 is a little under 11 bucks per student per year. You can afford that. There's no practical or logical reason why the Village should continue to subsidize this service at the same time we're asking public schools to cut back.

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