Written by BILL SCHANEN IV
Wednesday, 12 June 2013 17:20
Port-Saukville board OKs preliminary spending plan that includes funds for initiatives and addresses deficit
The Port Washington-Saukville School Board approved a preliminary 2013-14 budget Monday that not only addresses a $570,000 deficit but includes funding for a host of initiatives.
Among the new programs funded at least in part by the spending plan, which was the subject of a public hearing prior to the board vote, are school security improvements, a new high school Project Lead the Way biomedical engineering class, an additional technology education teacher, 1,754 iPads and Chromebooks — one for every middle and high school student in the district — and on-going energy-saving capital improvement projects.
“Despite being a challenging budget, we’ve found a way to add a tech-ed teacher, include start-up costs of the Project Lead the Way program and provide funding for electronic devices for students,” Supt. Michael Weber said.
The budget appeared far more challenging in April when administrators predicted the district would face the largest structural deficit it has seen in years, in large part because Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed 2013-15 state budget seeks to keep the revenue cap for general school district operations — the amount of money schools can collect in state aid and local property taxes — flat for two years.
Two months later, the district unveiled a plan that combines reductions in costs such as utilities and health insurance with staffing changes that administrators said won’t affect core programs.
A significant factor was a reduction of nearly half of a projected 10% Humana health insurance increase that will save about $100,000.
The district also expects to realize an estimated $75,000 in energy savings.
In terms of staffing, the board does not plan to fill a vacant elementary school teaching position, as well as several part-time positions that equal another full-time teaching position.
Staffing for less-popular extracurricular activities will also be reduced, as will funding for overload classes — additional sections of courses added due to demand — at the high school.
In addition, the district will not fill a math consultant position or contract for those services resulting in a savings of about $45,000, Weber said. Administrators didn’t find a candidate to fill the position, so the money budgeted was used to pay for consultant services this school year.
Also helping to balance the budget is a little more room under the district’s revenue limit granted by the state because of declining enrollment.
“Overall, it’s a pretty positive picture,” Director of Business Services Jim Froemming said. “But this is very, very preliminary. Things always change between now and October.”
October is when the board approves the final budget and tax levy, and until then the exact amount of money the district has to spend and the tax implications won’t be known.
Administrators described the preliminary budget as a worst-case scenario and expect it will improve. If they are correct, the district will revise the budget by first reconsidering staffing decisions, Weber said.
What is not likely to change is the district’s commitment to new programs, which would be funded through a number of sources in the budget.
The school security initiative, which involves improvements at each of the elementary schools, including a remodeling project at Lincoln Elementary School, is to be funded with about $200,000 from the fund equity, the district’s saving account.
Another $25,000 from the fund equity account will be used to pay for start-up costs associated with the Project Lead the Way biomedical engineering course.
At the end of this month, the district will have a fund equity balance of $4.8 million — roughly 15% of its general operating budget, Froemming said.
Most of the money for the purchase of student iPads and Chromebooks — part of a $1 million technology initiative — is coming from a federal grant and was included in this school year’s budget. Some funding for the program, including proceeds from a proposed increase in the student technology fee, is included in the 2013-14 budget.
The $1.8 million energy-saving initiative, which includes projects ranging from the replacement of boilers to the installation of high-efficiency lights in district buildings, will cost the district about $195,000 a year in annual loan payments through the 2021-22 school year.
The district invested $400,000 from fund equity in the project and borrowed the balance last year. The debt is not controlled by the revenue limits, which means the district can increase its property tax levy to pay it.
With the proposed state budget in flux and without property value calculations, the district’s tax predictions are an educated guess, administrators said.
As it stands now, the district is predicting a 0.2% increase in the property tax levy and rate. Theoretically, that would increase the average school tax bill by $4 or $5.
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Wednesday, 05 June 2013 17:17
Port officials consider new regulations after residents say man has failed to stop animals from barking, running at large
Complaints continued against a Town of Port Washington man whose dogs bark incessantly and run uncontrolled through the area.
Dog owner Rick Goebel was recently been cited by the Ozaukee County Sheriff’s Department for having a dog at large and for having a barking dog that causes a disturbance, according to court records.
And Monday, Gerald Wiskow of 2091 Lower Ridge Rd. told the Port Washington Town Board he has been bothered by Goebel’s dogs for years.
“I’m behind anything you can do to help alleviate the situation,” Wiskow said. “My yard’s small, but they manage to find it.”
He’s particularly annoyed by the barking, which continues for a significant amount of time, Wiskow said.
Just days after a recent Ozaukee Press article about neighbors’ complaints about the dogs, Wiskow said, the animals were running loose in a field behind his house during the afternoon.
“I don’t think they just happened to get free,” he said.
Town Attorney Steve Cain, who wrote to Goebel last September about dog-related complaints lodged against him, sent him another letter after neighbors asked for help in dealing with the problem last month.
“It has become apparent that you have failed to rectify the issues outlined in my last correspondence,” Cain wrote. “The town’s concerns demand immediate attention.”
Cain also asked Goebel to address complains of rubbish and junked vehicles on his property.
In reply, Goebel said he generally tends his dogs between 9 and 10 p.m. to try and avoid disturbing neighbors.
“I do not feel my animals are causing a noise disturbance,” he wrote.
“I have an electronic kennel silencer that goes off at any loud noise. All of my neighbors who have been here with me the 22 years I have lived here have no problem with my dogs.”
Goebel, who said he has been breeding English pointer hunting dogs for the past 15 years, said in his letter that he would build a higher fence on his property, and asked for 30 days to complete the work.
He would also try to dispose of a couch left outdoors, Goebel said, adding he does not have junked vehicles in his yard.
Town officials Monday noted that Cain is looking at potential regulations for dog breeders and limits on the number of animals housed in residential areas, while planners are also looking at the concept of requiring a conditional use permit for dog breeders operating in residential areas.
They noted that they have fielded complaints about Goebel’s dogs for some time.
Last month, a group of neighbors asked the Town Board for help in dealing with the animals, which they say have made it impossible for them to enjoy their homes and yards.
Some said they are afraid to let their own pets outside for fear Goebel’s animals — he has as many as 14, they said — will attack them, while others said their children are afraid of the animals.
Goebel and one of the neighbors got into a verbal argument about the issue while dropping refuse off at the town dumpster recently, officials said.
“There were a lot of exclamation points and bad words used,” Town Chairman Jim Melichar said. The dump superintendent asked Goebel to leave, he said, adding both Goebel and the neighbor returned later to apologize.
Officials said that Goebel had been cited in the past, but he has pleaded not guilty and, when no one has shown up at pre-trial hearings to complain about the animals, the judge has dismissed the tickets.
Goebel has recently been issued four citations from the Sheriff’s Department — on May 21 for having a dog at large and on April 3, May 21 and May 30 for having a barking dog causing a disturbance, according to court records.
A July 8 trial date has been set in connection with the April 3 ticket, according to court records, while hearings are pending on the other cases. Each ticket carries a maximum fine of $162.70.
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Wednesday, 29 May 2013 17:44
Great Lakes Sport Fishermen’s donation for ladders, life rings comes on eve of congressman’s visit to discuss upgrade efforts
The Great Lakes Sport Fishermen have donated enough money to buy adjustable-height ladders for the Port Washington breakwater and half of the 30-inch life rings that are needed there, Mayor Tom Mlada announced Tuesday.
Mlada’s announcement came just days before city officials are scheduled to meet with Congressman Tom Petri to discuss the condition of the deteriorating breakwater and options for improving safety there.
Depending on weather, Petri will tour the breakwater with officials on Friday morning to see firsthand its condition, Mlada said.
“The urgency of the situation is what we want to underscore,” he said. “The fact this is a health and safety issue, and that fixing it now makes a lot more fiscal sense than letting it fail and repairing it then.”
Mlada said the donation by the Sport Fishermen will help underscore the importance of repairing the breakwater.
“It shows that we’re aware there is an imminent danger out there, and we’re not going to wait around,” he said. “As a community, we’re not just standing by looking for a life ring from the federal government, so to speak. We recognize this is a health and safety issue and something has to be done.”
Mlada said he is hoping that Petri, a longstanding member of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, can help the city navigate the federal process as it seeks funding and approval for the repairs from the Army Corps of Engineers, which is responsible for the structure.
He also hopes Petri will bring attention to the situation on the federal level, Mlada said.
“We need help,” he said. “I think this is a good time to have this conversation. We need to let him (Petri) know this is important to us.”
Mlada said officials from the Army Corps of Engineers are also expected to visit the city in the coming weeks to review the condition of the breakwater.
The donation by the Great Lakes Sport Fishermen is the first from a civic organization since the Waterfront Safety Committee revealed an ambitious fundraising campaign to improve thousands of dollars to make the lakefront safer.
Projects to be funded through the campaign include everything from signs displaying water conditions to life rings, as well as a series of cameras and call boxes along the lakefront and a installing a WiFi system on the beach.
Bob Hammen, president of the Port chapter of the Great Lakes Sport Fishermen, said members are concerned about the safety of everyone using the lakefront.
Currently, there are no life rings on the breakwater and many of the ladders on its face are missing rungs and don’t come close to the surface of the water, making it difficult for anyone struggling in the lake to use them.
“A lot of people use that breakwater,” Hammen said. “A lot of people fish off the breakwater for salmon, trout and perch. We’re concerned about its condition, and we don’t want to see anyone hurt there.”
The club is also purchasing a camera for the marina that will be incorporated into the Waterfront Safety Committee’s plan to install cameras that could be used to aid in searches.
“We figured our camera could become part of that effort,” Hammen said.
There is no timetable yet for when the camera, life rings or ladders will be installed, Mlada said. “It’s encouraging that heading into summer we could get some of our safety measures implemented,” he said.
Written by Ozaukee Press
Wednesday, 22 May 2013 17:21
Sixth annual celebration to again provide variety of music, food and family fun
The sixth annual Port Washington Community Street Festival will be held from noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, May 26.
Franklin Street will be closed off for the festival, which is a celebration of the community and its downtown.
As usual, music will play a big part in the festival.
Featured at the north-side stage at Jackson Street will be Big Noise. The band, originally known as Hoochie Koo, performs a diverse song list focused on rock and pop hits from the past five decades. Along with cover material, the band also performs original material.
At the south-side stage, local favorite Vinyl Groove will play its blend of vintage rock dance music from the 1960s through early ’80s.
The bands will play throughout the fest.
This year’s event will include many of the attractions found in previous years — booths by city businesses, bounce house, chalk drawings, face painting, a Port Washington Fire Department truck, the police department’s DARE vehicle and a variety of children’s games.
The Port Washington High School pirate mascot and McGruff the Crime Dog will wander the grounds during the event.
The Disney princesses — Cinderella, Belle and Snow White — will be on hand from 1 to 4 p.m. so youngsters can have their pictures taken with royalty.
Before having their pictures taken, girls can get their hair done at the Little Princess Boutique.
A hole-in-one contest will be held in Rotary Park throughout the day. Golfers will try their hand at hitting a ball onto a hole set in a boat in the west slip.
Children’s games sponsored by the Port Washington Parks and Recreation Department playground program will also be offered in the park from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m.
Charter fishermen will offer free boat rides throughout the festival.
More than 60 vendors, including businesses and service clubs, will line Franklin Street selling a variety of items, including children’s books, fresh produce, plants, baked goods and more.
Northern Cross Science Foundation will set up telescopes so people can safely view the sun.
Ozaukee Sports Center will offer laser tag, and a number of city restaurants will have their specialties on hand for purchase.
A full lineup of entertainment will be part of the festival.
At the Performing Arts Stage in front of Port Washington State Bank, Impact Dance will entertain the crowd throughout the afternoon.
Between performances, the troupe will offer children’s activities.
Animals are prohibited on the grounds. However, Port Washington’s new dog park, Lucky Dog Park, will have a dog in a fenced area at its booth.