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Referendum looming? School board discusses future facility projects

By Kevin Boneske
Staff Writer

AHSHWAUBENON – Taking care of future facility projects in the Ashwaubenon School District could lead to a referendum taking place in the spring of 2020.

That was the focus of a discussion school board members had Wednesday, Dec. 12, with Superintendent Kurt Weyers and Business Director Keith Lucius, who provided board members with the following list of some of the large projects that may be considered:

• Cormier and Early Learning Center entrance and parking lot – safety issues identified during the district’s safety review.

• Cormier heating, ventilation and air conditioning system improvement/efficiency.

• High school track issues – both dip in track and fencing issues.

• Asbestos abatement.

• Gym floor replacement at Parkview Middle School and Pioneer Elementary School. Those floors are at the end of their expected life, and the district cannot resurface them any longer.

• LED lighting in the high school field house, old high school gym and Parkview gym.

• Parkview windows – lower level windows are being replaced as part of the district’s safety grant, but the upper level still has the original windows.

• District office move and current district office building use.

• Air conditioning of school buildings.

Lucius noted none of those projects need to be done immediately.

He said a referendum for $5-7 million could be held more than a year from now for a term of five to seven years and not result in the district tax rate increasing as a result of its passage.

Keith Lucius

For that to happen, Lucius said bonds the district has for existing debt would be paid off this coming spring with funds already designated for that purpose.

Lucius noted paying off debt and its effect on lowering the mill rate, but also resulting in the district receiving less state aid, would be an opportunity to start some of those projects and have modern facilities to attract both open-enrollment students and families moving into the district.

“One option would be to go to a referendum, and put together a group of projects for the community and say, ‘If we can keep your mill rate the same as it is now, would you support us doing these projects?’” he said.

Lucius said it would be too late and wouldn’t make sense, in his opinion, for holding a referendum next spring and there are no referendum dates next fall.

The earliest a referendum could be held is the spring of 2020, either in February or April.

“The good news with that… is it gives us planning time to get people involved and get input,” he said. “Similar to the way we did the referendum for the pool and auditorium, we’d do some surveying of the community… We’d have time to get more community involvement in what types of things we’re looking at and how they may even look.”

Lucius said steps that would be taking place next year, before setting a referendum, include the board selecting which facility projects to pursue, getting costs estimates and conceptual designs on possible project and sharing that information with the community along with getting feedback with surveying.

Some cost estimates had previously been obtained, Lucius said, such as around $600,000 for the work needed at the track, where contamination issues in that area raise the project price.

“The surface of the track is getting to the point where we should be replacing it,” he said. “I think it would be foolish to replace it and not fix the structural issue with the dip as it’s called… We know the contamination is there when we did the turf field, so when we do (the track), we’ve got to work with the (Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources), we have to have controls in place and whoever the contractor is we hire, we’re not going to let them take anything off-site. It’s all going to have to be handled properly and have the DNR approve of the plans.”

Because of the expense and related contamination issues, Lucius said the track “needs to be done right the first time and not touched for a long time.”

Though selling the district office building has previously been considered with a possible move of staff to the former commons area at the high school, Lucius said a decision will have to be made as to whether the district would want to instead keep the building and use it for other purposes.

He noted a previous estimate of comparable buildings like the district office placed its property value at slightly under $200,000.

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