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Could Racine Unified Use Its $10 Million Healthcare Savings to Buy Another Year?

Dave Hazen, CFO of the Racine Unified School District, proposed putting a projected $10 million healthcare savings into a fund and using it in combination with redistricting to plug a $6.5 million hole in the 2012-2013 budget.

The Racine Unified School District saved over $10 million this year by overestimating its healthcare spending. Whether or not a redistricting plan goes into effect next year could hinge on how that money is used.

Dave Hazen, chief financial officer for Unified, told board members and an audience of about 100 residents at the Board of Education meeting on Thursday that the savings could be higher, but he’s being conservative. He proposes putting that money into a healthcare stabilization fund administered by the Board of Adjustment committee that can be used to stabilize future budgets when and/or if needed.

The Board of Adjustment includes members from the district and the Racine Educators Association. The group is addressing issues related to health and dental benefits.

“If we maintain our spend, but put the money we’re saving now into this special fund, it will help solve our budget problems,” he said.

Hazen said the district budgeted for $42 million in healthcare spending, but the numbers he's seeing are actually much lower.

Then the Board of Adjustment could work on wellness and long-term health strategies to reduce the overall need, Hazen said.

In short, Hazen thinks that by combining the redistricting plan with the healthcare stabilization fund, the district will bridge a projected $6.5 million budget gap for the 2012-2013 school year.

The redistricting plan - which is vehemently opposed by the families, faculty and staff at both and schools - targets those buildings for closing. Most students would move to neighborhood schools if the Board votes Monday to approve the plan.

Dennis Wiser thinks the healthcare stabilization fund should be used to fully bridge the budget gap for next year so board members can have more time to make sure what they do is right.

“The timeline is terribly fast,” he said after the meeting was over. “We don’t have the best track record for long-range planning so I’m concerned. When I think about moving kids, parents changing their lives, reducing staff, I want to do it right. I’d rather take a year to think about it so a year from now we aren’t going through this again.”

Pastor Melvin Hargrove, also a board member, said he thinks it’s prudent for the board to vote on Monday.

“Dave (Hazen), Pat (Duff), and Dr. Laing have done due diligence and we’ve gotten a lot of information over the last couple of months, so I do think we should vote on Monday,” he said. “Unfortunately, anything we do will disrupt lives, and I pray we can move things forward.”

But Julie McKenna, even as she agreed more with Wiser, seemed to side with Hargrove based on her experience with redistricting plans in the past.

“We do need more time to reflect because while we have one piece in place, we need all the pieces,” she said. “But I’m afraid if we wait any longer, we’ll just keep pushing decisions further down the road.”

Still, she said she voted against school closings before and said the projected savings may not measure up, which has also been part of her past experience on the board.

Brian Dey March 16, 2012 at 03:03 PM
Midwest George- Without Act 10, there would have been no give backs. The union knew it would be political suicide if they did not agree to the cuts enacted in Act 10, and most teachers were agreeable to the provisions of cuts in health care and savings. It is precisely the "tools" that the Milwaukee Teachers Education Association asked Walker if they could use, even though they rushed through a contract. I will give "kudos" to both Walker's Act 10, and the cuts the RUSD unions took to match it. Both helped the district save $29 million. As far as David Hazen is concerned, it appears that with most financial decisions, he is out of his league as CFO. Thankfully, his error went in our favor, and we no longer need to rush through school closings and can take the time to do it right.
Tim Scott March 16, 2012 at 04:55 PM
I'm OK with that answer. I can follow rules. However, I will test every boundary. Thank you Heather.
Tim Scott March 17, 2012 at 01:22 AM
Racine Wolf Man Pickets RUSD To Be Responsible! http://racineuncovered.org/2012/03/racine-wolf-man-pickets-rusd-to-be-responsible/ (you should see the other side of that sign!) LOL.
mau March 17, 2012 at 01:59 AM
@Tim, gotta love it. A pack of one.
Tim Scott March 18, 2012 at 01:10 AM
The Racine Wolfman also made news over at JT Irregulars! http://www.jtirregulars.com/2012/03/racine-wolf-man-pickets-rusd-to-be.html He may also appear, as he has previously, at the intersection of Hwy 31 and 20 again. Keep your eyes open! You never know where he is going to strike. A fly on the wall told me that the Wolf Man will appear in Kenosha, at the Courthhouse on March 21st - around noon. He is suppoused to be accompanied by a very special guest and a good time should be had by all! Press-Release Soon!

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