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UPDATED: Consolidation talks continue in New Glarus
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NEW GLARUS - A consolidated school district that would include New Glarus and either Belleville or Monticello is one step closer, but still a long way from reality.

Chris Bowie, New Glarus school board president, said the board discussed the idea at its meeting Jan. 12. At the same time, boards from Belleville and Monticello also took up the topic at their meetings.

All three boards decided it would be something to at least examine.

Bowie said the three districts will jointly write a proposal to the state to request a grant to look into the possibility.

Monticello District Administrator Karen Ballin today said that "no additional action, other than willingness to look at these facts and figures, should be implied by our participation in the grant application."

Ballin acknowledged in a statement Monday that consolidation is a "sensitive" topic, but the board is obliged to gather information on "what if" questions.

"If awarded the grant, we are hopeful the information provided will help us to identify measures we can take to control costs while continuing to offer excellent educational opportunities for our students."

In December, the Wisconsin Department of Instruction sent information to all Wisconsin school districts offering a grant for those districts that want to study the idea of consolidating with other districts.

The grant will enable the districts to examine such things as enrollment, levies and tax rates to determine if it would make sense, from a financial point of view, for the districts to join together.

Bowie said requests for grant money needed to be turned in to the state by Jan. 30. He doesn't know how long it will take for the state to provide the money or how much money the districts would receive. He said the districts could receive up to $10,000 to look into a consolidation.

When the districts receive the money, Bowie said, he expects them to hire someone to look at information to determine if it would be economically advantageous for the districts to consolidate.

The New Glarus board will discuss the matter at its meeting tonight. The item is listed as a "discussion" item on the board's agenda, Bowie said. When it comes time for the district to spend any of the grant money it receives, the board will have to take a vote to authorize the spending, he added.

People in all three school districts have talked informally in the past about consolidating as a way to save money. The districts have co-ops in some sports, so the idea of the districts working together isn't anything new.

The New Glarus school board meets at 7:15 p.m. today in the high school library.