Voters to Consider School Referendums Today

MacIver News Service | February 16, 2016

[Madison, Wisc…] Across Wisconsin today, 11 school districts will hold 13 referendums. Voters will have to decide whether to go beyond their respective state revenue limit and raise funds through issuing debt and raising taxes.

Combined, the referendums are asking for about $109 million. Only $3 million requested by the Hayward Community School District is re-occurring. The remaining amount is for costs like building projects, maintaining existing operating costs such as staff and programs, and upgrades to technology and security measures. None of the referendums are to upgrade the energy efficiency of the schools’ various equipment and technology.

Most of the referendums which are not one-time payouts for special purposes are for the school years 2016-2019.

School districts may choose to hold referendums at other times in the year. February is typically the first month referendums appear, so more are likely to come later in the year.

In the past few years, the number of referendums in Wisconsin has been increasing. In 2011-2014, Wisconsin saw a total of 534 school referendums. Approximately 76 percent of referendum were passed by voters.

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The Slinger School District is asking for the most money out of the school districts. Asked in two separate ballot questions, the requested $42.3 million is to pay for a new high school auditorium, improvements to create dedicated athletic spaces, and various updates and renovations across the whole district. If both are passed, the owner of a $200,000 home can expect an additional $102 in property taxes each year.

Northland Pines — also in two separate ballot questions — is asking for $11.7 million to maintain existing programs as well as to update security and safety measures, measures like upgrading security cameras and employing a school resources officer. If both questions pass, property taxes on a $200,000 home will rise $178 annually.

Intending to demolish, remodel, and renovate a wing in the elementary school and updating furnishings, fixtures, and equipment, the Oostburg School District is asking taxpayers to approve the district’s request to issue $9.6 million in debt. This will cost the taxpayer $50 annually for a $200,000 house.

In addition to asking for $3 million for the 2016-2017 school this year and thereafter, the Hayward Community School is also asking for $5.64 million to be evenly distributed over four years for technology updates and facilities repairs. Should both questions be approved, a homeowner of a $200,000 house will see property taxes rise on average by $310 until 2021, then drop to $212 for the next three years.

The New Glarus School District is asking for up to $5.8 million to upgrade safety and security issues. Other projects include creating additional classroom space. The current tax rates will not change if the referendum passes.

While not on the list of this week’s “Capitol Update,” Senator Duey Stroebel has some school referendum legislation to be aware of. Under his plan, districts could only hold referendums during general elections. In addition, a two-year wait would be required after a referendum fails before districts could ask it again.