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Voucher initiative an option in district

Taxpayers may be able to work down school tax bill with odd jobs

Sept. 7, 2006

If Germantown School Board member Bruce Warnimont has his way some time in the near future, school district residents may knock several hundred dollars a year off their property tax bills by taking tickets at a football game or working a concession stand at a wrestling meet.

Relying on a tax voucher, Warnimont said the work-your-bill-down system is used in at least one public school district in Wisconsin - Pulaski Community School District.

Used to help taxpayers who want to shrink a school district's bite of their bill, the arrangement is being considered for use in the Germantown School District.

"In Pulaski they have been doing it for a number of years. They've had tremendous success with it," Warnimont said. "I think we should look into starting this here."

Following Pulaski's model

At a School Board meeting last week, Warnimont asked Superintendent Victor Rossetti to investigate the possibility of trying a voucher system here.

Warnimont said cash or checks are not part of the program, which may involve some clerical and maintenance tasks, as well as supervising or chaperoning students.

"There are quite a few jobs throughout a school district and some in the (Pulaski) community work so many hours a year (in the district) essentially at minimum wage. They get a voucher at the end of the year that they can apply to (lowering) their property tax," he said.

Warnimont said he expects Rossetti will provide a list of possible work opportunities for school district taxpayers to work down their tax bill in the Germantown school district's six schools. Rossetti is expected to provide a report on the topic to the board no later than a January board meeting.

Previously done by teachers

Germantown Education Association (GEA) President Tom Wilcox said even though he has yet to review information about such a program, he already has some reservations.

He said Germantown district teachers have long been paid for such after-school activities such as ticket taking, crowd control, and directing event traffic.

"As a parent I would want a trained individual overseeing events as such. I can understand working in a concession stand. That may be a viable alternative but as far as supervision at games, I think the district's opening itself to a lawsuit if anything would happen to endanger the safety of our students," the teachers' union head said.

Warnimont explained teachers don't necessarily have a contractual right to after-school jobs.

"There's nothing in their contract that specifically guarantees them those jobs. What it does say is that if they do those jobs they will be paid a certain amount," he said.

A PCSD Web site said such volunteers supplement but do not substitute the work of regular district employees.

Wilcox said when it comes to supervising events, school district faculty have the advantage of knowing their extra-curricular audiences from inside the classroom.

Community education

Rossetti said he has already contacted the Pulaski district seeking more information on the voucher program. He said it's only one component of the Pulaski district's community education program, known as Pulaski Area Community Education (PACE).

"That program is distinguished across the country," he said. "I've implemented community education programs in Prairie de Chien (Wis.) and Long Island (N.Y.) but if you want to see how it's done, Pulaski is the place to go."

Rossetti said he may visit the Pulaski school system to get a first-hand view of PACE generally and the voucher program specifically. He said Germantown district officials are already working with village of Germantown Park and Recreation Director Brett Altergott and the Village Board to establish a joint community education program.

"We're going to meet with the GEA and village (officials) and the (Village) Board to get this started," he said.

Likely a program may involve classes and field trips to cultural events, such as plays and concerts jointly sponsored by the school district and village. It would be open to residents of the school district and village.

Deb Schneider, PCSD employee, was unavailable to answer a reporter's questions as of presstime.

FYI

WHO: Pulaski Community School District

WHAT: Pulaski Area Community Education (PACE)

INFORMATION: www.pulaski.k12.wi.us

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