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School Facilities Spending Approved, But Leaves Big Needs at Elementary Schools Off the List

Muskego school board narrowly passes recommendation to spend nearly $2.6 million to fix what's ailing throughout school buildings, with some notable exclusions.

The failure of the November 2010 and which would have approved borrowing up to $30 million to update existing and builld new school facilities, meant that the Muskego-Norways school board had to go back to the drawing board.

Monday night, after several rounds of discussion the school board decided to spend $814,000 from their budget and $1.78 million of their fund balance to get started on the long 'punch list' that the schools have presented.

Among the items that will be repaired or replaced are roof sections on the and all but one school (Lakeview Elementary). The expenditure takes up the vast majority of the total, at nearly $1.2 million. Other projects will include classroom floor replacement at , Elementary School and .

The vote however was close at 4-3, and reflected debate held prior to the vote. Some members felt the elementary schools should have received a larger share of this initial spending, as they were the reason for the referendum in the first place.

"I think the focus should be on our elementary schools," said treasurer Dean Strom. "The referendum didn't pass, and I'd rather see the $680,000 for the roof at removed from this list."

Of the $2.59 million spending package, only 20 percent will be spent at elementary schools. However, board president Jim Schaefer reminded the board that the reigning philosophy was to remove expenses related to the aging HVAC systems, some of which are more than 50 years old, at the elementary schools, hinting that the return on investment wouldn't be worth it.

"We looked at removing the costs for the boilers because we were going to try and stretch their lifespan, and perhaps when it would be time to have to replace them, there wouldn't be a need to," he said. His comment indicated that the district would try again in the future to propose new building.

A memo from Scot Ecker, Director of Business for the district, also mentioned that "using $8.6 million (the projected expense to cover all repairs) of fund balance to support our most aging schools would not likely be viewed as good fiscal stewards."

Ecker also said the HVAC systems at Tess Corners, Muskego and Lakeview Elementary have exceeded their lifespan, and replacing them should not be an option until they fail. Should that occur, Ecker said the district should form a contingency plan "should we ever have to temporarily close any of these schools due to system failure in heating season."

Superintendent Joe Schroeder interjected that there could be unlimited discussion of what should go on the list and what should be taken off. However he reminded the board they had asked Gary Rosploch, building and grounds supervisor to come up with the list because of the trust they had in him, and his knowledge of the facilities.

The split vote left the original proposal intact. The repairs will take place during the 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 budget years.

Deanna Kuhn Knasinski March 23, 2012 at 01:59 PM
I am so ready to vote Jim Schaefer out. He doesn't want to fix the elementary schools because his plan is still to build a new giant school. Mr. Schaefer should take a tour of MPS & see our schools should stay. A new roof for the HS?? What a waste of money. Shame on you School board.
Rick Petfalski March 23, 2012 at 02:32 PM
This is simply a case of mis-reporting. The comment in the story "His comment indicated that the district would try again in the future to propose new building." Is completely untrue. In fact if you were at the meeting the opposite was said by me and NO ONE objected. I stated, "We pledged $5 million of fund balance towards building new schools if the last referendum passed. The community spoke and I will not support another referendum while I am on this board. Therefore I am comfortable using $1.8 Million of fund balance to catch up on the maintenance needs of the buildings that have been put on hold the last few years because we need these buildings to last." We did have discussions about the roof of the high school. The section of roof that needs replacing is in the old section of the building. If it is not replaced, we risk leaking, which would risk damaging internal portions of the building and possible mold issues. We have a obligation to make sure that our building structures are sound, and safe so we protect the investment the taxpayers have made in our schools in the past and so we can use these buildings into the future. Most of the board discussion was based on how to pay for the list of maintenance items and when to commit the funds. Also, most of the list of the items are elementary and middle school related.
Simple Bacon March 23, 2012 at 02:54 PM
Won't be long the plasma screens will need to be replaced.... So, if another referendum is out can we sell that chunk of land? How about getting a second opinion on what can be done with the existing elementary schools? Maybe the firm behind the referendum plan was wrong. Has the board considered that?
Rick Petfalski March 23, 2012 at 03:35 PM
Simple, thanks for bringing up the plasmas. If you recall I was one the board members who voted to return all extra funds from the high school project to the taxpayers. I wouldn't support using taxpayer funds to replace them. Besides how can they be worn out, I've only seen them on a couple of times! Regarding the land, certainly that could be looked at, but a few things to consider: The land was purchased under market value at the time for a great price. Some day Muskego will address it's elementary school buildings. That day may be a decade off, but there isn't much land available that meet the requirements of a school in that part of the city. Many open tracts of land have options to purchase already. This isn't the best time/market to sell real estate.
Simple Bacon March 23, 2012 at 03:45 PM
Valid points Rick. Sometimes when we spend so much time and resources on a plan we get tunnel vision and lose track of alternatives if the original plan gets scrapped. Just wondering, and I don't follow the school board as closely as I should, whether we have questioned the assumption that we can't make the necessary improvements to the existing elementary schools. Would a different design firm have come up with a different assessment of the possibilities?
Rick Petfalski March 23, 2012 at 03:55 PM
I'm not a architect, but my understanding is our two oldest buildings have such a "patch work" of additions over the years, just bringing the schools up to ADA, fire and building codes that would be required with any substantial improvements to them would almost be the costs of a new building. If you remember, our first proposal had a extensive remodel of Mill Valley. The costs were very close to just tearing it down and starting over, but we went with the remodel because we never talked about a new Mill Valley during all of our community input meetings. We felt to go that direction after getting all the input might have been perceived as not following what the community gave us direction on. We actually do try very hard to be transparent to the taxpayers.
Muskego Mike March 23, 2012 at 04:09 PM
The plasma screen issue has an impact on the voting of the two failed referendum. The residents of the city have lost trust in the school board because Muskego was mocked and ridiculed in parts of the local media. The High School project has stained all future projects for many voters.
Jay March 23, 2012 at 04:10 PM
Seems to me that if we ever do get rid of Tess and Muskego elementary for a new elementary school the land that those 2 schools are currently on may be more valuable because of where they are located as well. From a selling standpoint anyway. They are both right along a potential business corridor and maybe we could get some decent money for them rather than sell the vacant land that we have now which I think would not be as potentially valuable.
Simple Bacon March 23, 2012 at 04:19 PM
This has always been the conundrum; a number of schools being of similar age and challenge. Obviously, a patchwork of repairs leading to an eventual tear down will cost way more in the end. An issue apparently lost on the voters during the two referendums. I still wonder whether different architects would have found a different solution. Maybe / maybe not. At least the community will get a park on the lake. That's something.... (sorry, couldn't resist)
Simple Bacon March 23, 2012 at 04:23 PM
Their location(s) also make them highly desirable as neighborhood schools.
Rick Petfalski March 23, 2012 at 04:30 PM
Mike, I agree with you and that is unfortunate. I'm only one of two board members that were even around during the Plasma issue and you know where I stood on that issue. The current board does try to put the taxpayers first on each of our decisions. We spend hours and many nights trying to be open and honest. We have been in the media the last few days and in my opinion it really was a bit unfair. We had two parents who had issues that we (the board) would have been more than willing to look into for them and help, but in both incidents they went to the media, before even bringing the situation to us to try to address. I have no problem going to the media if we were unresponsive or they were unhappy with the outcome, but we were elected to represent the voters. I wish we would have been given a chance before the Muskego Schools were dragged through the mud. We have come a long way in the last 8 to 10 years and by every measure are a much better school district, one we can all be proud of. Are there still opportunities for improvement? Absolutely and we look forward to addressing those issues as we move forward. Boy that sounded like an election speech! It wasn't, there aren't even any contest school board races this year. Thanks for the feedback. It helps us be a better board.
Concerned Citizen March 23, 2012 at 05:05 PM
Muskego Mike - you are SO right - that plasma TV thing is SO fresh in everyone's mind still as well as the refusal to listen to the people the FIRST time and try and slam the 2nd referendum down our throat. While politicians easily forget, the taxpayers do not. The trust is lost. And then we read stories in the Patch about the median age in Muskego going up and the inability to attract younger families and that being the reason that the referendums failed.....maybe it's because of the inability of this city to ever listen to what the citizens want and the "we know best" attitude.
Denise Konkol (Editor) March 23, 2012 at 05:11 PM
All true, Rick; I don't think we said that anyone objected to spending money on the schools, but like Supt. Schroeder said, the details could have been discussed for a unlimited time. I also quoted the memo from Scot Ecker that addressed whether it would be prudent to purchase the bigger ticket items for the aging schools until absolutely necessary. I see both sides - should their ever be a new opportunity to build a brand new school, which has to come somewhere down the road, will those investments be worth it?
Denise Konkol (Editor) March 23, 2012 at 05:13 PM
Rick - curious as to your opinion on whether, if either Tess Corners or Muskego El were to be closed if there would be any way to 'repurpose' them? Earlier, it was suggested that Muskego could use a senior center, and in other cities, aging schools have been sold and converted to apartment housing or condos. Any likelihood that either of these buildings could be candidates?
Simple Bacon March 23, 2012 at 05:22 PM
You are giving way, way, too much credit to the Patch's analytic skills. No time to get into the demography right now but I would not use their, or the Parks Director, conclusions as your source of rationale behind why the referendums failed. There is more at play than the median age of the population.
Simple Bacon March 23, 2012 at 05:35 PM
I've often thought that Muskego El would make an awesome office space. There would still be significant cost however and we seem to have trouble getting businesses to come into the low cost spaces. Same issue with performing the necessary repairs as they now stand the buildings have to almost be gutted to put in necessary infrastructure and bring them to code. Isn't Muskego El talked about as a candidate for historical site designation? I've heard that somewhere.
Rick Petfalski March 23, 2012 at 05:41 PM
**Disclaimer** I am not speaking for the board, this is merely my opinion. There is also absolutely no talk of proposing another school referendum now or in the near future. The public for a variety of reasons, has made their wishes abundantly clear. So this answer is hypothetical. You could re-purpose them, but I would rather just sell them to recover expenses of a new building. The school district is not in the redevelop business and that would best be left to professionals. Muskego Ele and Tess Corners has some major ADA issues, so I'm not sure how realistic it would be for a senior center or apartments. Whom ever purchased them would most likely purchase them for the land and location, both of which will be fairly valuable upon the completion of Janesville Road (Muskego more than Tess.)
Rick Petfalski March 23, 2012 at 05:45 PM
"Isn't Muskego El talked about as a candidate for historical site designation? I've heard that somewhere." That would be a VERY BAD thing for the taxpayers.
Brett Hyde March 23, 2012 at 05:58 PM
My understanding is that because of impact that the Janesville Road project will have on the buildings along the construction site, many building were looked at for any possibility of an historical designation. Muskego El, despite it's age, did not fall under the criteria the study was looking for.
Bryan K. March 25, 2012 at 12:19 AM
Mr. Petfalski, What was said by the talk show host on Thursday was completely wrong and one-sided about the English assignment. As a student of MHS who took that class last year, the real assignment was to watch "Sicko" after we discussed logical fallacies in class. Then, we had to list logical fallacies that were in the movie (in which there were many), NOT write a general summary of the movie. The movie does lean to the left, but if parents and the host think that we should not be exposed to all viewpoints, they are living in a fantasy world. The teacher told us to watch the film with an open mind. Also, what is the big deal if teachers at my school signed the recall petitions? Why should they be criticized? This teacher taught me so much in that English class last year. I completely improved my writing style, and because of the knowledge I gained from her last year, it helped with an essay that helped me win a major scholarship. I would back this teacher 100%. I don't understand why parents would go directly to a talk show host that they have never met in their lives before. He has no control over our school district. It baffles me why these parents did not talk to MHS administration and you and the school board.
Bryan K. March 25, 2012 at 12:29 AM
When will people give it up about the TVs? I mean, that was already 7 years ago! I have a feeling that this is what was going through the minds of the people who were purchasing them: In 2005, plasma TVs were the next big thing, and tube TVs were on their way out. Why would they purchase tube TVs that are bulky, small, and would be out of date right away? This is most likely why the flat screens were purchased instead. If they were to be purchased again today, that cost would have been maybe a little over $5000. So what are the TVs used for? Well, they are used daily for our announcements. They are also used whenever there is not enough seating in the gym for events, like graduation. There is a camera in the gym that can be viewed through the TVs. Maybe if we wouldn't have skimped out on the gym costs, then maybe we could have had a gym with bleachers that can pull out all the way for a basketball game (I'm surprised no one talks about this fault of the addition anymore). In the end, it's ridiculous for Muskego citizens to hold a 7 year long grudge on MNSD. How much longer will the grudge last? 10 years? 20 years? It will take a bad event to happen to the schools (like a boiler failing and the school closing) for the community to realize that our schools are outdated and inadequate for our students.
Christine Webb April 01, 2012 at 01:10 AM
Considering at Muskego Elem, you can hear the kids tip toe on the second floor when on the first floor, don't you think that is the school that should be on the minds of the school board?? It has 6-7 levels in that school! Maybe the building can be replaced, but keep some of the "historical" items in the design. They did that when my old high school, when they tore it down to add to the "newer' part.

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