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Vote ‘yes’ on the HSSD referendum

By Ben Rodgers

If residents of Howard-Suamico want a quality education for students in the district, a “yes” vote is the smart choice.

Over the past month, The Press ran a four-part series examining the referendum and the need the district has.

That four part series was nearly 5,000 words. To thoroughly examine the issue it would have probably taken closer to 15,000. But even that might be a little short.

There is no doubt school financing is one of the most complex issues in Wisconsin. Numerous moving factors combine to create a perplex funding formula that requires hours of study to comprehend.

So let’s keep it simple.

The Howard-Suamico School District is hampered by a law that went into effect back in 1993 that set revenue limits.

That law handicaps how much each district can spend.

Due to fiscal conservatism at the time, that number remains low compared to neighboring districts.

However, at the same time, the Howard-Suamico area has grown exponentially.

Because of the revenue limit, the population increase means the tax burden is spread more widely among residents.

This is partly why the district has been able to keep the same tax rate for the past three years.

The HSSD also used the prudent tactic of paying down debt early.

This is why the referendum will not affect that tax rate.

But enough about the background, let’s focus on the needs.

The story covering classroom sizes has attracted lots of readership, and with good reason.

Classroom size is something tangible that’s easy to understand. More students and less teachers means higher populated classes.

This results in less time teachers are able to spend with each student, which in turn results in a diminished educational experience.

The referendum would add more teachers which helps more students.

But throwing teachers in mass at a problem won’t fix it. This is where the second benefit from the referendum comes in.

The vast majority of teachers in the HSSD are underpaid.

The referendum would jump-start a plan that is ready to go to increase teacher pay and keep great educators in the district.

I like to imagine this goes without saying, but at no time should a great teacher who is familiar with the district jump ship to make more pay.

That choice lies with said teacher, and after all, everyone has a mortgage to pay.

But if a district can’t offer its best the pay they deserve, then something has to change.

This referendum will address that.

Finally, the facilities that house students and educators in the HSSD are in need of repair.

I won’t call the situation dire, but if this referendum fails, the district will have no choice but to increase cuts and ask another referendum question to manage the aging buildings.

For the past two years the district has put emphasis on teacher pay over building maintenance. That trend cannot continue.

No one likes the idea of rising tax rates.

But taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society.

However, this referendum means the rate will stay the same. If your property value increases, then yes, you will have to pay more, but that is the same for any tax levy.

There is something inherently wrong with the state government because so many districts are forced to go to a referendum.

State law says quality education is a right and shall be covered equally by the state and the local municipalities.

However, data suggests the state portion keeps shrinking, while the burden placed on property taxpayers keeps increasing.

Aid comes from Madison every session, but never is that aid used to adjust the portion residents pay in property taxes.

This is why roughly 80 percent of proposed referenda pass. Because there is no other way.

It’s an unfortunate situation when taxpayers are faced with a district in need.

It means something failed on the state level, and trends suggest that failure will continue across Wisconsin.

But at least in Howard-Suamico, residents can be assured the district staff and the school board has worked diligently to find a solution that has minimal impact.

A “yes” vote is needed to ensure the future for students in the Howard-Suamico School District.

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