Voters in 25 School Districts Raise Taxes on Themselves
Wisconsin voters approved ballot initiatives in 25 districts yesterday, voluntarily raising property taxes in order to fund services or improved infrastructure in their districts.
Referenda approved at the ballot box include:
- The issuance of $20 million in debt by the Green Bay Area School District to replace heating, ventilation, and cooling systems, and to make other repairs.
- The issuance of $18.9 million debt by the Johnson Creek School District to build a new building for students in grades 5 through 12.
- Allowing the Oshkosh Area School District to exceed revenue limits by a total of $28 million over the next seven years. Approval of the referendum means that the district will be able to avoid taking several steps that would harm students, including closing a middle school; reducing art, music, and physical education time by half for elementary students; and doubling athletic participation fees at some schools.
- Allowing the Fort Atkinson School District to avoid drastic cuts in programs for students by exceeding revenue limits by a total of $5.3 million over the next three years. The reduction in state support for schools was cited as a major reason the Fort Atkinson district sought to have a referendum approved.
Voters also turned down referenda in 13 districts yesterday.
The total number of school referenda was 43. (A few districts had more than one referendum on the ballot last week.) Of the 43 referenda, 29 passed and the remainder failed. The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction website has more information on school referenda.
Passing a referendum can be an important tool for taxpayers who want to ensure that their school district makes the kind of investments in students and schools that help build a strong economy. But schools shouldn’t need to go to referendum to avoid making deep cuts to academic programs. Wisconsin lawmakers should focus on making sure schools have the resources they need to give every student in Wisconsin access to a high-quality education.