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Whitefish Bay School Board approves $100,000 toward athletic upgrades

Girls' softball diamond, outdoor athletic center to benefit

March 19, 2014

The Whitefish Bay School District has officially earmarked $100,000 in its 2013-14 budget to be used toward improvements for two district athletic facilities.

The School Board at its March 12 business meeting voted to commit $30,000 for improvements to the backyard area of Richards Elementary and, as a separate action, $70,000 for the installation of artificial turf at the high school girls' softball field.

The board expressed its support for both requests during previous committee discussions, with its recent action actually designating the funds, which will come from the district's operational reserves.

"We wouldn't be dispersing this money to any organization," Business Services Director Shawn Yde told the board. "We will hold onto it. When they meet their fundraising goals, those donations will come into us and we'll actually expend and manage the project."

Board member Anne Kearney indicated that progress has been made in reaching the fundraising goal for the Richards project, with close to $100,000 raised so far. A total of about $256,000 is needed to complete the first phase of the project, which would include demolishing the existing tennis court area behind the school and replacing it with the Richards Athletic Court – three tennis courts, three half-court basketball courts, several foursquare and hopscotch grids and backboards.

According to a recent update on the Richards Elementary website, if the total amount is secured by mid-May, those improvements could be completed over the summer. A second phase of the project, to be completed at a later date, would target playground equipment upgrades.

Based on previous board discussions, Yde said it is possible the district would allocate approximately $61,000 in additional funds for the project in the future, which could help cover costs related to retaining-wall reconstruction and concrete removal that would be needed regardless of whether project fundraising is successful. Those funds are not included in this year's budget.

As for the high school girls' softball field project, the district's contribution fulfills 70 percent of the $100,000 the Bay Baseball Steering Committee requested from the board. The committee plans to replace the existing field with an approximately 59,300-square-foot FieldTurf outfield at an estimated cost of $450,000, toward which the organization has already secured significant contributions.

Although some concern was previously expressed about the fact that the project is not part of the district's long-range facilities maintenance plan, the district expects to save about $17,000 annually on supplies and manpower that would not be needed for artificial FieldTurf and could be reallocated to other buildings and grounds expenditures. In addition, the multipurpose facility would be available for use by other district athletics and community groups.

Board members previously indicated that they may be willing to consider an additional contribution to the project, should Bay Baseball be unable to raise the remaining $30,000 of what was requested.

Taking both contributions into consideration, the district's fund balance would still be maintained at a level above 23 percent, within its recommended range of 18 to 25 percent of the budget.

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