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Schools not to blame for

‘survival by referendum’

As the Northland Pines and Three Lakes school districts go to referendum next Tuesday in hopes of remaining financially solvent, we hope the voters remember the truth on why districts have been forced into this “survival by referendum” cycle.

 

It is not the fault of school boards, administrators and local teachers that Pines is seeking authority to exceed state revenue caps by $2.7 million over the next three years, and Three Lakes by $2.3 million over the next five years. They are simply playing by the rules established by the Legislature.

 

Legislators get the blame for tossing school districts into the referendum cycle. It was 20 years ago that they carelessly set a revenue cap of 2.1% but created a Qualified Economic Offer bargaining system that allowed salary and benefit increases of about 4.2% annually.

 

With the districts’ major budget item growing at twice the rate of the cap, it didn’t take but a decade for most districts to run out of cuts to make or funds to steal from other budget accounts. It was the Legislature, under the guise of accountability to local taxpayers, that created a cycle few districts have escaped.

 

While the Qualified Economic Offer system has since been repealed and Act 10 has given districts more flexibility in deciding salary and benefits, the state tightened its per pupil spending caps significantly. That move ensures that no matter how frugal districts become, they can’t gain enough levying authority to crawl out of the current cycle.

 

We have witnessed the enormous effort administrators, school boards and staff have made to save money by refinancing loans, creating more efficient schools, cutting personnel, cutting programs, changing health care providers, reducing supplies, eliminating overtime and cutting back on bus runs.

 

School tax rates at Pines and Three Lakes currently rank in the bottom seven statewide. Voters need to know that a failed referendum would lead to dissolution, loss of local control over education, loss of community pride and identity, and likely higher taxes thru annexation to another district.

Monster hockey event

drew record 342 teams

More than 2,400 hockey players from 30 states converged on Eagle River last weekend for the Labatt Club USA?Hockey Pond Hockey Championships, one of the best sporting events in Wisconsin.

 

The record-setting 342 teams played more than 600 games on 28 rinks that were carved from the snow-covered ice on Dollar Lake. No other pond hockey event could compete.

 

USA Hockey has billed the event as taking “hockey back to its roots,” and those roots are strong in Eagle River — where the first organized hockey game in Wisconsin was played.

 

There are few rural communities in the country that would pull off such a massive and well-organized national event, but it happened here for the eighth year thanks to the Eagle River Fire Department, the Eagle River Recreation Association and Chanticleer Inn.

Behind the editorial ‘we’

 

Members of the Vilas County News-Review editorial board include Publisher Kurt Krueger, Editor Gary Ridderbusch and Assistant Editor Anthony Drew.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013 4:32 PM
 

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