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Teachers in Northern Wisconsin Awarded Bonuses
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A school district in Northern Wisconsin finished 2011 with a surplus in the budget, allowing the district to return that surplus to the employees of the district. The employees received $500 bonuses for Christmas, a move that did anger a local citizens group that claims the money should have been sent back to the taxpayers.

The school district, the Baldwin-Woodville Area School District, which is 30 miles east of St. Paul, Minnesota, sent out the $500 checks to the homes of its full and part-time employees right before the Christmas holiday. This was announced by School Board President Jeff Campbell.

  
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Campbell explained that earlier in 2011, teachers and other employees within the district had agreed to a pay freeze. Those employees also agreed to pay 5.8 percent of their salary toward pensions, to drop the WEA Trust health insurance plan and switch to a more affordable provider, and to pay higher deductibles for their health insurance. These concessions were in response to Governor Scott Walker’s Act 10 law and other cuts across the state for school spending.

The teachers at Baldwin-Woodville Area School District are under contract until the summer of 2012. Even though the teachers are under contract until after the 2011-2012 school year, they still agreed to the concessions, much like teachers from other districts without contracts did because of Act 10.

There are 200 employees in the district, all of whom received the bonus checks. The surplus came from the concessions by the employees, which left the district with an extra $100,000.

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Campbell went onto explain that the school board did not vote on the action of handing out the bonuses. He also added that there was not an opposition to the bonus idea when Superintendent Russell Helland mentioned it at a board meeting.

“When all this (Act 10 action) was happening earlier in the year, there was discussion at the board about how, if we could at the end of the year, we could try to give something back to employees,” Campbell said. “We have custodians making between $8 and $12 an hour, and our youngest teachers make in the low $30,000s per year. We couldn’t give them a raise, but we could do this.”



The Citizens for Responsible Government, a conservative group from St. Croix County, disagree with the bonuses to the employees.

“Despite a budget surplus, taxpayers will not get a Christmas bonus,” said Leanne Rice in an email to the Journal Sentinel.

According to a news release, the group believes that the bonuses are out of line, which caused them to “filed documentation for an Exploratory Committee for Recall of one or several members of the BWSD.”



 

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