PW-S District will tap savings to match gifts

School Board OKs program that will use fund balance to add to donations for capital improvements
By 
KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Ozaukee Press staff

The Port Washington-Saukville School Board has agreed to create a matching fund program for capital projects using $100,000 from the district’s fund balance.

The fund will be used to match money raised by parent groups and create a partnership between the district and the organizations, particularly at the middle and elementary schools, officials said.

“We have a healthy fund balance, and we have really excited parent groups who want to do things at the schools,” Director of Business Services Jim Froemming told the School Board on July 15. “I’m excited about this. It just seems like a great investment.”

He noted that the parent groups raise a lot of money to support the schools, often for items the district can’t otherwise afford.

For example, Froemming said, the parent group at Lincoln Elementary is looking at new swings, including one that could be used by children with disabilities, and a sidewalk leading to the swing — something not in the school’s five-year plan.

“We’d love to help with that,” Froemming said.

The fund would let parent groups know the district is prepared to support their projects, Froemming said, and also make it easier for these organizations to reach their goals.

  “Fundraising is hard,” board member Brian McCutcheon said, adding, “it’s one of those things that after a while it just slows down. This is one more tool for them to use to get projects done.” 

McCutcheon said the fund would increase communications between the district and these fundraising groups and eliminate the surprise when groups don’t meet their fundraising goal and then appeal to the school board for money.

“The best thing about this is the knowing,” he said. “We need to know ahead of time so we don’t get blindsided.”

Froemming said parent groups would work with the building principals to define the projects they want to fund. The principals would then likely pass on the information to Supt. Mike Weber or Froemming about the projects, and they can inform the School Board.

Any project of $25,000 or more would have to come before the School Board for approval.
“These projects would have to be for capital projects, something that would be a little longer lasting,” he said, “not things like, ‘I want to pick up breakfast supplies.’”

The parent group would have to raise its share of the money before seeking the matching funds, Froemming said.

The district has enough money in its fund balance to finance the program, Froemming said, noting the balance is about $7 million.

When the initial $100,000 allocation is spent, the School Board would need to decide if it is going to replenish the fund, he said.

“I think it’s a great idea. If we can help in any way in these tough budget times, it’s great,” board member Marchell Longstaff said.

“These parent groups work so hard. They can spread their money out with this,” board President Brenda Fritsch said.  

But board member Aaron Paulin questioned the need for the fund, saying, “I don’t know if there’s anything wrong with the system we have now. I see this as an unnecessary step.”

Without the program, parent groups can raise money without telling any district officials, McCutcheon said. This way, officials will know what’s being proposed.

“I think this is long overdue,” he said.

“The administrators know what projects are most needed ... sometimes more than the board does,” Fritsch said.

The board unanimously approved creation of the fund with the condition that the project description forms and process be reviewed by members before the program is implemented.

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