WATERLOO — The Waterloo School Board has moved closer to setting a November operating referendum after approving a dollar amount of $700,000 per year for 5 years.

However, some board members asked at a May 9 meeting if that is enough.

“I still have reservations about $700,000. I think asking only for enough money just to keep the doors open is not what’s best for our kids,” board member Kate Lewandowski said. “I think we have time to revise this and ask for the money that our kids should have, and the money they truly need to get the best education possible.”

Lewandowski spent most of 2021 pushing for a referendum and was critical of other board members for not putting forth more effort toward that.

Now, Lewandowski said it’s a mistake to not go higher.

“I think the community supports the school. I think if we, as a board, say this is what we need, the community will give it to us,” Lewandowski said.

A new voice among those concerned about not asking for more money was Sara Cummings, her first year on the board.

Superintendent Brian Henning called inflation a “wild card,” saying that he and other administrators felt that they’d hit the peak in March, but prices rose even more in April and projections have pointed toward even worse inflation in May. He also said if inflation continues in this direction then “everyone is going to be hurting.”

Cummings pointedly asked Henning if $700,000 per year was actually enough and suggested $850,000 might be better “rather than playing it safe and possibly being in the same position in 5 years,” adding that it could provide a cushion.

Henning said yes and reiterated the concern that he and other administrators, the finance committee and other board members had as referendum discussions ramped up. That was if the district was asking for too much money.

“Taxpayers don’t like the word cushion. Believe me, I’d like to have more. There are an endless number of needs we can address,” Henning said.

There was a sense among some board members that they should stick to the $700,000 because that was what the finance committee said to do.

“I think the finance committee came up with this number. I don’t think the administrators came up with something lightly. I think they did some work on what we should put out there,” said board member Jim Setz.

The district also faces a $430,000 deficit, which has been blamed at least in part on the Wisconsin Legislature not increasing aid to districts around the state.

“We have to put pressure on our legislators when they go to pass the next budget biennium, they can’t give schools a zero (% increase) or a decrease. They are going to have to come up with some new monies of some sort,” Henning said.

An official question still has to be approved. A resolution to place items on the November ballot must be approved by Aug. 30. Henning said he expects to present a resolution in June.

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