The new school board president for Brookfield-LaGrange Park Elementary School District 95 vowed last week that scrutinizing the district’s budget will be its No. 1 priority.
Brookfield resident James Landahl was named the District 95 president last Thursday night after being sworn in along with four others who won election to the school board April 5. Landahl, who begins his second term on the board, replaces MariAnn Leibrandt at the helm. Leibrandt, a school board member for eight years, decided not to run for reelection.
“We have to break down the budget and find out if there is any waste,” said Landahl. “For fiscal year ’05-’06 we’re going to do a detailed analysis of the budget, seeing where we can save money without cutting back staff and programs.”
The district’s financial situation is the principal challenge facing the board. In recent years, the district has sold bonds to help cover a revenue shortfall. During the 2004-05 school year, the board’s budget predicted expenditures outpacing revenues by $800,000. That shortfall was covered by a $3.6 million bond issue passed by the board in 2004.
But faced with the prospect of continually issuing debt to fund operations, the board voted to ask voters to pass a referendum that would have boosted tax revenues. Voters defeated the referendum by a 54 to 46 percent margin.
Landahl pledged Thursday that the district would try to pass a referendum again in the spring of 2006. The key to that effort, he said would be “communication to the point of over-communicating through all channels.”
Serving as the district’s new vice president is John LaBarbera, who won election to a four-year term on the board April 5. LaBarbera was appointed to the board in January 2004 after the resignation of Sharon McDarmont. McDarmont’s unexpired two-year term on the board was filled by Stephen Hyzny, a write-in candidate who amassed 141 votes April 5.
The new board secretary is Charles Snyder who also won reelection to a second term on the board. He is chairman of the district’s Finance Committee. The final board member sworn in Thursday was Jon Dunker. All of the candidates ran unopposed. They join Thomas Powers and Lynn Waterloo, who are currently in the midst of their first terms on the board.
Leibrandt regretted the failure of the April referendum, but said that the district had added significantly to the curriculum during her time on the board, including music, art, foreign language, technology and expanded extracurricular activities.
“All of these programs are things children need for a well-rounded education,” Leibrandt said.
Meanwhile, outgoing Vice President Jerry Werner said that he may remain involved by helping with a new referendum push. Werner, who was heavily involved in pushing for a district-wide facilities study said that the district needed to set priorities for maintaining its two school buildings.
“We don’t expect everything to be done at once, but there should be a four-year or five-year plan, so that every year a little can get done.”
However, Landahl said that capital improvements were on hold as the district looked to hire a new architect.
“We were satisfied, but we feel that it’s time to evaluate what’s out there in the marketplace,” Landahl said.
Landahl added that the district ought to be addressing capital improvements, not operations with bond issues.
“We do have some flexibility [for issuing debt], but we have to put that plan together,” Landahl said.