Voters in 43 Districts Raise Taxes on Themselves for Schools

Thursday, April 9, 2015 at 9:58 AM by

Wisconsin voters approved ballot initiatives in 43 school districts on Tuesday, voluntarily raising property taxes in order to fund academics or improve infrastructure in their districts.

Measures approved by voters included:

  • Approving $41 million in borrowing that will allow the Madison Metropolitan School District to expand five overcrowded schools and renovate other school buildings to improve accessibility. More than 80% of voters approved Madison’s referendum.
  • Allowing the Manitowoc School District to exceed revenue limits by a total of $6 million over the next three years. School officials said that without a successful referendum, the district might have to close an elementary school, eliminate the fifth and sixth grade band programs, and make other cuts to academics.
  • Borrowing $17 million to renovate athletic facilities at several schools in the Kenosha School District.
  • Allowing the Hilbert School District to exceed revenue limits by $1.2 million over the next three years to avoid making cuts to classroom academics and teaching staff. Voters in the Hilbert School District also approved borrowing $12 million to build a new elementary school.

Voters also turned down referenda in 18 districts on Tuesday.

The total number of school referenda was 74. (Several districts had more than one referendum on the ballot.) Of the 74 referenda, 50 passed (68%) 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, and even districts that had successful referenda may face substantial cuts if the state budget is approved in its current form.

Tamarine Cornelius

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