KENOSHA, Wis. – Perhaps we’ve reached the point where government can’t even be shamed into controlling its spending.
In 2013, EAGnews released a report revealing that the Kenosha, Wisconsin school district had spent large and questionable sums of taxpayer dollars on hotels, air fare, rental cars and restaurants during fiscal year 2011-12.
To their credit, the folks at television station WTMJ produced an investigation piece based on our report, and confronted Kenosha school officials about the spending.
Following that, one might have expected at least some Kenosha school officials to start taking a closer look at their spending practices and economize wherever possible.
But that apparently hasn’t been the case.
EAGnews recently completed a review of the district’s spending for the 2014-15 school year, and guess what? The amounts spent on the categories mentioned above were pretty much the same.
Take hotel charges, for instance. In 2011-12 the district spent $153,038. In 2014-15 it spent $166,305. That’s probably about the same amount of travel, with inflation figured in.
In 2011-12 other travel costs (air fare, car rental, travel services) came to a total of $130,743. In 2014-15 those costs totaled $124,400.
In 2011-12 restaurant expenditures came to around $40,000. In 2014-15 they totaled $40,750.
The bottom line is that Kenosha school officials are going to spend taxpayer’s dollars pretty any way they want, regardless of how much light is shed on the disturbing subject.
Is that because the people of the district just don’t care enough to hold the district accountable?
The simple fact is that Kenosha schools lag behind the state average in academic scores, according to the 2013-14 report card issued by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.
Are district officials spending every possible dime on improving the academic situation in the school? Who is pushing them to make sure that happens on a regular basis?
All the media can do is continue to shed light on the issues. Only concerned and determined citizens can force change.
Kenosha employees did a lot of traveling in 2014-15.
They spent money at 113 hotels, rolling up a total of $166,305.
District officials did not include dates of their trips, or details of their expenses, so all we can report are the vendors and the amount spent by the school with each one.
We assume that district officials would say the same thing they said a few years ago – that the travel dollars were largely spent on sending teachers to various professional conferences, so they can learn and improve and in turn help students.
With modern technology, there is no need for so much travel to communicate with and learn from other professionals. Has anybody in the district investigated the possibility of doing more teleconferencing and less flying and lodging?
By far the biggest beneficiary of the Kenosha travel budget was Kalahari Resorts, which has outlets across the nation, including Wisconsin Dells. The district spent $31,245 in 2014-15 for lodging and other services through Kalahari.
The rest of the top 10 on the Kenosha school travel list are Hilton Hotels Chicago ($13,349). Hyatt Hotels Houston ($6,126), the Sheraton Boston Hotel ($6,005), the Sheraton Seattle Hotel ($5,045), Marriott Hotels Kansas City ($4,725), Holiday Inn Express ($4,696), the Hotel Chicago Downtown ($4,340), the Madison Concourse Hotel ($3,884) and the Westin Indianapolis Hotel ($3,876).
The district had 247 transactions with various airlines in 2014-15, totaling 60,241.
Kenosha school employees did their most frequent flying with Southwest Airlines ($27,588), followed by United ($12,552), American Airlines ($9,041), USAirways ($4,333), Delta ($3,939) and Spirit ($1,338).
There were also 30 transactions for a total of $26,173 for various travel booking services, with the vast majority of the money going to Expedia ($24,736).
Kenosha school employee only had eight transactions with car rental companies, but they came to a whopping total of $37,985. Two of those transactions were with Mayfair Rent A Car in Kenosha, for a grand total of $35,316.
What in the world did they need all those rental cars for?
Finally there was the restaurant expense.
Kenosha school employees did business with 165 restaurants in 2014-15, running up a tab of $40,750.
The most popular vendor was Panera Bread ($7,650), followed by Jimmy Johns ($4,537), Subway ($2,700), Cousins Subs ($2,506), The Pizza King ($1,055), Gaylord National FD ($990), Infusino’s Pizzeria ($957), Jimano’s Pizzeria ($897), Kaiser Pizza and Pub ($735) and Eataly Scuola ($690).