Referenda Roundup


There were fourteen referenda on the ballot last Tuesday (more here on the campaigns), six passed and eight failed.  There will be at least fifty-eight referenda on the ballot April 1, 2008.  Madison should have an operating referendum on the November ballot.  Last year over one hundred districts went to referendum.

Is this any way to fund our schools?  Read below and decide for yourself.


Question 1: Operating, recurring, $160,000/year —  Failed 772-600.

Question 2:  Funding unfunded retirement benefits, nonrecurring (4 year), $250,000/year — Failed 926-455 (this is going to be  a problem for many districts in the years to come).

Question 3: School Improvements (physical plant), nonrecurring (4 year) $215,000/year — Failed 704-681

From the Wausau Daily Herald

“I don’t know what other solutions are out there,” said Raab, adding that the board has been looking at potential budget cuts, but “I just don’t know how deep we can go.”

Superintendent Gerald Eichman said the district must do a better job informing the community of its needs and the state’s school funding formula when asking for another referendum.

School districts say they have built-in deficits because fixed costs, such as teacher’s salaries and benefits, rise faster than the state increases revenue limits…

“We’re going to be able to survive next year,” he [Superintendent Gerald Eichman] said. “It’s going to get exponentially worse each year after because of the increasing costs.”

Darlington Community

One Question: Operating, nonrecurring (4 year), $700,000/year — Passed 748-724.

From the Monroe Times:

District Administrator Joseph Galle, who was out of the district Wednesday, previously said the money is needed for general day-to-day operational expenses, such as heating fuel, electricity and paying staff salaries and benefits…

Galle cited a growing gap between state funding and district expenses and a decline in state aid due to declining enrollment as reasons for a referendum.


Question 1: Operating and maintenance of new high school with academies, recurring, $2,427,00/year — Passed 16,255-12,387.

Question 2: Issue debt for new high school construction, $52,500,000 — Passed 17,341-11,701


“I am so ecstatic,” said Bradford Principal Sue Savaglio-Jarvis as the final votes came in. “I think all through this process it was going to pass. I’m so happy the community saw this was important for student learning. It’s a relief because we see an end to the overcrowding coming, and we can start giving kids more opportunities that they don’t have right now.”


One Question: Operating, nonrecurring (5 years), $2,000,000 the first year, $2,500,000 the second, $3,000,000 the remaining years — Passed 5,893-4,683.

From the Marshfield News Herald:

“I really have to applaud the voters for coming through loud and clear with a pro-education message,” said John Adam Kruse, chairman of the Yes Committee. “By maintaining our great public schools, we will continue to be a community that people will want to raise their children in.”

Merrill Area

One Question: Operating, recurring, $930,000 the first year, $995,000 the second year amd $990,000 the third year — Failed 5,116-2,049.

From the Wausau Daily Herald:

 Staff losses at the schools will increase some class sizes and reduce individual instruction. Less support staff will mean that more responsibilities will fall on teachers, said Gerald Beyer, principal of Prairie River Middle School.

“From the building-level principal perspective, these cuts are real,” he said.

More on cuts in Merrill here and this video

Oconto Falls

One Question: Issue debt for athletic field improvements, $4,970,000, Failed 1,698-1,580.

Rio Community

Operating and maintenance, nonrecurring, $295,000 the first year, $415,000 the second year and $560,000 the third year (3 year), Failed 501-483.

From the Portage Daily Register:

[School Board member Don] Shippert said if the board decides to pursue the same referendum again, there are only 18 people left to convince. He also said he understands that living on a fixed income and being retired is difficult, because he is in the same situation.

“I hope there would be a feeling of community support for the younger generation. There should be a commitment that each generation has to the next,” Shippert said.


One Question: Issue debt for Ag/Tech shop addition, $490,000, Passed 661-494.

This is the happy ending to a heartbreaking story.   A similar referendum had failed by one vote in 2007.  This time the community, led by the Future Farmers of America Alumni, came together to pass the referendum.  Communities like Thorpe struggle to keep population and jobs.  Investing in effective agricultural and technical education can help keep these communities and our state strong.  Thorp’s agricultural education program is one of the fastest growing in Wisconsin, now they will have the facilities they need.  Good work.


One Question: Issue debt for new boiler, Passed 1,082-334.

From the Watertown Daily Times:

Without voter approval to exceed the state-imposed revenue caps, the board would have had to cut educational programs to pay for a new boiler. Revenue caps limit the amount of money a school district can raise through the property tax levy. The project is nothing the district can do within its budget officials have said.


One Question: Operating and maintenance, nonrecurring, $1,115,000 the first year, $1,000,000 the last three (4 year), Failed 1,334-394.

From the Peshtigo Times:

The school district has been facing budget shortfalls of more than $354,000 a year. Its once healthy general fund balance is now projected to be over $700,000 in the negative by the end of the 2009-2010 school year if nothing changes. The specter of closing the school looms on the horizon…

Trustee Jeff Townsend hoped people would realize the damage loss of the school would cause to the village economy. The real solution, he suggested, “is to get more students.” He said people need to sit down as professionals and figure out how to improve the schools so parents will move to Wausaukee because they want their kids attending school there…

Trustee Rosie Figas asked Gerbers what his group was doing to influence the state to change its school funding formula. Gerbers said the 48 “northern lake districts” in the state are all facing the same financial problems. He said members of their group met several times with Sen. Roger Breske, but the northern districts don’t have enough votes to force change in Madison. He said Crivitz is in almost the same position as Wausaukee, only a little behind. “They’ll be where we are next year,” he predicted.

Woodruff-Arbor Vitae

One Question: Operating, recurring, $689,500 the first year, $125,000 more the second year and $70,000 more the third (exceed revenue caps $880,000 each subsequent year), Failed 1,014-924.

From WJFW:

[District Administrator Susan] Treb says, “We have to consider what’s going on and be realistic about the broken system we currently have for funding public schools.” (and video)

Thomas J.  Mertz

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