Amid 10 pages of possible budget reduction measures being considered by the Oshkosh school district, one suggestion stands out:
“Use goats to mow lawns.”
The tongue-in-cheek suggestion was offered during a series of meetings held by an advisory committee of community members and district employees tasked with coming up with recommendations to fill a projected $3.5 million budget deficit next school year.
District officials said that all recommendations were included in the list, which is organized by likelihood of implementation for the coming budget year. Business Director Bob Tess described the goat recommendation as “a little levity” in a situation that requires “painful, gut-wrenching” decisions.
It is listed in a category of items with no financial impact on the 2013-14 budget that could potentially be pursued to alleviate budget pressure in the future. However, if it ever comes up for serious discussion, Superintendent Stan Mack has other ideas for the district’s lawns.
Although goats cut the grass shorter, Mack said, the personalities of sheep are better suited to the district’s needs. The school district has not looked into goat market prices.
“Having raised sheep, over goats, I can tell you that I would rather deal with sheep,” Mack said. “Goats are more entertaining, but they would also climb and walk on top of cars in the parking lot. And then we’d have the bill of paying for damage to paint because goats don’t hesitate walking on top of cars. So there’s a downside to the goat situation. I’ve never seen a sheep walk on top of a car, but I have seen a goat walk on top of cars.”
The thought of replacing the school district’s lawnmowers with goats is one of the only bright spots to emerge from the budget discussion. Every reduction measure will have an impact on students, administrators said, adding that it’s a question of deciding which measures would have the least negative effects.
The process itself, administrators said, has also been positive, despite the subject matter.
“The process has been encouraging,” Tess said. “And most that have been involved are encouraged by the process despite the ugliness of what we have to deal with. We’ve included a wide variety of stakeholders, we didn’t rush through the process and it still hasn’t been to the board … Everybody that’s been involved is encouraged by this process.”
For more on the specific reductions being considered, why the cuts are necessary, what the district’s timeline is and how you can weigh in, check Monday’s Oshkosh Northwestern in print or online.
In the meantime, feel free to weigh in on the goats vs. sheep debate. Which would you rather have eating your grass?