Referendum Watch: Local Districts Turn to Voters for Opportunity to Spend on Education

April 5 wasn’t just an important day for the state’s Supreme Court race, but also for local school districts across the state. Several counties went to the polls on Tuesday to vote on referendums for their neighborhood schools. Thirteen different districts put funding decisions in the hands of their local voters on Tuesday, and the results were varied.

Many districts earned approval for smaller items, mostly revenue cap exemptions that allow for an increase in local taxes to provide additional aid for students. Many larger items, such as an $83 million project aimed at building schools in Racine or a $39 million proposal to make improvements in River Falls, didn’t hold weight with the voters. Below is a partial list of district referenda and how they fared in Wisconsin this April. Click the links included for more information.

Darlington Community – APPROVED.  Residents approved two referenda that would extend revenue limits by $700,000 per year as well as create $2.1m in funding for maintenance projects.

Ellsworth – APPROVED. A $1.3m overage was passed in the Ellsworth School District Tuesday, allowing district authorities to raise and spend almost $4m for local schools over the next three years.

Fort Atkinson – APPROVED. 10 votes were the difference between passing or rejecting a plan that would spend an additional $694,000 per year for three years in Fort Atkinson’s schools.

Highland – REJECTED and APPROVED. Voters in Highland shot down a proposal to spend $535k on a new roof, but approved another referendum that will allow the district to exceed revenue limits to the tune of $275,000 per year.

Johnson Creek – REJECTED. Johnson Creek voters rejected a $29 million referendum that would have been used to build new facilities in the district. This was the third straight defeat for capital projects in the community since 2005.

Monroe – REJECTED. This referendum asked for an extra $8m for school funds over a four year period, but was defeated at the polls.

New Glarus – REJECTED. A $10 million referendum that was slated to add additional classrooms to the town’s elementary school, create additions for the local high/middle schools, and make mechanical repairs in all facilities was shot down on Tuesday.

Poynette – APPROVED. Poynette residents gave the OK for their school board to spend $1.3m on improvements across area schools.

Racine Unified – REJECTED. Voters in Racine soundly defeated all three referenda. This included $83 million in capital costs to open five new elementary schools (and repair five others), replace stimulus funds, and additional funds for repairs across the district.

River Falls – REJECTED. $39m in proposed improvements to existing schools was not approved by local voters in a 48-52 margin.

Spencer – APPROVED. Voters passed a revenue cap exemption of $675,000 per year for five years to fund local schools in Spencer.

Tomorrow River – APPROVED. Voters supported a measure that would expand revenue limits by $1.75m in 2011-2012 in order to cover operating expenses.

Wisconsin Heights – APPROVED. Voters in Wisconsin Heights approved a plan that would allow the district to exceed state-mandated revenue limits when it comes to student funding. This will allow an extra $1.7m to be spent on education in Wisconsin Heights over the next two years.