August 31, 2019 – West Bend, WI – West Bend Mayor Kraig Sadownikow wore several hats during his appearance this week as the guest speaker at Common Sense Citizens of Washington County.
Sadownikow provided updates on the City of West Bend. Highlights included:
-Developments including the new Fleet Farm and Verizon store on Highway 33 will help spur other development.
-Designs for the west side of the downtown Riverwalk are underway and the 2021 project could include an underpass.
-The City is working to expand the industrial park and in the last few months annexed and purchased 200 acres of land south of Rusco Road.
-Closer to October there will be a 2020 budget presentation and Sadownikow expects the mil rate to remain flat and, with merit pay in place, employees in the City could see a maximum 2.5 percent pay bump which hasn’t been done since 2006.
-Increasing funding for roads and reducing debt are still high priorities.
-After Eighth Avenue is completed it is expected to be a primary thoroughfare when Seventh Avenue is upgraded in 2020.
-Lots of budget discussion including $25 million to run the City, looking for efficiencies through outsourcing, finding success in modernizing the garbage trucks and subbing out legal costs rather than having attorneys on staff. There are about 225 City employees.
-In 2012 the City of West Bend was among the worse 10 percent in the state in terms of debt and now has paid off $40 million in debt and is in good standing in the top 40.
-Dark store theory is still an active discussion and an interesting topic. Walmart in West Bend has been assessed at $12 million. The store has filed a lawsuit to be at $6 million assessed value. Walmart sold June 18, 2019for $18.8 million.
Sadownikow started the WBSDTF after a failed referendumin April 2019. The task force is focused on looking at facilities in the West Bend School District, specifically Jackson Elementary and the West Bend High Schools.
“I did not publicly support the referendum,” said Sadownikow. “I personally did not publicly support it. I feel our schools are in need of some additional maintenance. I did not vote for the referendum because I didn’t think where the dollars were going to go was communicated well enough.”
Sadownikow said $47 million was a lot of money. “I did not see a picture of the new elementary building, classroom designs or a priority list of where the money would go,” he said.
After the referendum he felt “doing nothing wasn’t an option” and thus was born the WBSDTF.
Sadownikow asked West Bend Mutual and Delta Defense for money to fund a private task force and hire an engineering firm to give an unbiased look at the district. Zimmerman Design was brought on board to make recommendations for modern facilities.
Within 24 hours Sadownikow had financing, an architectural firm and he cobbled together a task force with electrical contractors, architects and engineers. “I want to be super clear, while I feel money is part of the solution to our facilities more money probably isn’t part of the solution,” he said. “How we allocate the dollars in the district will be a key part of our findings.”
The Task Force asked for three things including access to building, access to information and finally to publicly present its findings to the school board on Oct. 14, 2019 at 5:30 p.m. “We’ve toured the schools, collected information and will present our findings,” said Sadownikow. “There is an effort to appease everyone and that’s tough to do.”
“The Task Force challenged itself to ask questions that may not have been asked before,” said Sadownikow.
The Task Force toured the schools, adding Decorah Elementary and Fair Park to the list, and collected information and currently the group is putting together its findings.
“We decided early on we would keep our conversations within the group until we can all agree on a message,” said Sadownikow. “I don’t think our findings will be perfect… but we will go into the community and support our findings.”
One nugget Sadowniknow shared included four general findings. “First category is general findings on the school district as a whole pertaining to communication and the 25-year plan,” he said.
Second item is high school priorities. “We heard safety enhancements and locker room improvements but we will list out our priorities and we’ve assigned some dollar ranges,” he said.
Third is elementary school deployment. “How the district offers elementary school education,” he said. “Is it remodeling or a new school… I won’t say now.”
Fourth is operational opportunities. “In running the city we saved money by outsourcing. Can that be done in the school district,” he said. “Our job is to ask questions that haven’t been asked before.”
Sadownikow said the key statement is, “money may be part of the solution, more money may not be part of the solution.”
Those in attendance then asked several questions about how the district got into this position, were any other school districts used as models of success, possibly leaning towards virtual schools,
“Until we figure out how to make sure we’re maintaining what we have it would be a tough sell to say we need new rooftops. We need to figure out a maintenance budget,” he said.
Some specifics found include a declining enrollment at the elementary school level. “It’s a statewide trend,” said Sadownikow. “We’re at 79 percent capacity now and projections are that number will decline.”
Sadownikow said it’s important to “not use old data to plan new stuff.”
“Are the dollars all being deployed in the most cost-effective manner,” he said. “The easy answer is more. We need more, more money. I like to ask the question, how much and where is it going.”
The WBSD Task Force presentation is slated for Monday, October 14 in the West Bend School District office, 735 S. Main Street, at 5:30 p.m. The meeting is open to the public.