Ashwaubenon survey discussed relating to possible referendums
By Kevin Boneske
ASHWAUBENON – A survey to inform residents and gauge levels of support for possible referendum questions was discussed Wednesday, Sept. 11, by the Ashwaubenon school board.
After paying off the remaining debt this year on previous building projects, the district is looking at making a variety of facility improvements with an estimated total price tag of around $20 million.
Bill Foster of School Perceptions, the firm putting together the survey, spoke before the board.
The board suggested revisions to the survey being mailed out early next month to all district residents, who will be asked to complete it by Oct. 28.
Foster said he would be back before the board in November to review the results, after which the district could hold focus groups before a possible board decision in December on whether to place a referendum question or questions before voters next April.
Keith Lucius, business director of Ashwaubenon schools, said he hopes the survey results will be clear enough to indicate the level of support among district residents, so that focus groups wouldn’t be necessary.
Foster said the eight-page survey will be mailed out with a business reply envelop.
It may be taken either online with a one-time use code, which he expects 75 percent who complete the survey will do, or on paper returned by mail.
“We want to be inclusive and allow everyone the opportunity to participate,” he said. “The other important thing about a paper survey is even if they don’t take it, they’re likely going to open it up and read about what’s going on, what’s being considered, so they get educated.”
Foster said the survey refers to a base plan with an estimated cost of $9.09 million, which includes:
• Improving school security and safety at Cormier and Pioneer Elementary School ($2.8 million).
• Adding air conditioning throughout the high school, Pioneer and Valley View Elementary schools ($4.35 million).
• Updating district facilities ($1.94 million) to repair the track, abate asbestos, repair the Pioneer gym foundation, replace three gym floors, replace lighting in the gyms and the Parkview Middle School library, and replace windows and doors at Parkview.
The survey will include questions related to whether the survey respondents support the three categories listed in the base plan.
Separate questions are also included as to whether the district office should move to the high school, with the old commons remodeled for that purpose, at an estimated cost of $1.05 million, and whether to build a multi-purpose indoor facility at the high school for an estimated $9.7 million.
Questions listing specific referendum amounts will have five possible responses – definitely yes, probably yes, undecided, probably no and definitely no.
Foster said those questions include the five response categories to analyze “how firm a yes is, how firm a no is.”
The question for the base plan of $9.09 million mentions no increase over the district’s current property tax rate is expected with that amount approved.
“There is no tax increase over what they’re currently paying, but there is a tax impact, because taxes would go down if we didn’t do this,” Lucius said.
The survey lists an anticipated tax increase of $60 for a $100,000 home with a capital referendum of $19.84 million, which includes the base plan, moving the district office into the high school and building a multi-purpose facility.
Support for a proposed operational referendum to cover annual expenses of $730,000 – which would include $650,000 to improve mental health services and $80,000 for operating new air conditioning systems if they are approved – is also being surveyed with the estimated tax increase of $55.50 for a $100,000 home.
Lucius pointed out the reason the annual tax impact of the operational referendum would be close to that of a capital referendum for around $20 million is because the operational referendum’s $730,000 would be levied annually for each year that referendum would be in effect.
He said the total amount of the capital referendum would be for over the number of the years the referendum is being paid off.
Foster said a property tax increase of $1.15 per $1,000 with both referendums passing, when added onto the current school tax rate of $8.36 per $1,000, would still be less than what the tax rate was two years earlier.
The survey will also collect demographic information of the respondents related to age, if they are district residents, if they are district employees, if they are a parent of a district student and the ages of their children 18 and younger.
“I want to make sure our (senior citizens) are well represented in the data,” Foster said. “Seniors tend to vote a much higher level than our younger people do.”
Foster said school staff members will receive the survey prior to it being mailed out, so they will be able to answer questions from others as to what the district is considering.
But he said staff who don’t live in the district wouldn’t be able to answer the funding support questions.
He said parents probably represent 25 percent of the community and are an important subgroup because they typically are more supportive of school projects.
Foster said non-parents and non-staff are the most important group of respondents because they represent the majority of the community.
“They don’t work here, they don’t have kids here, and they get the most votes,” he said. “That’s why they’re the most important.”
Foster said the survey would be available in other languages, such as Spanish, for which a paper copy could be requested by calling the district.
Lucius said extra paper copies of the survey would be available at the district’s buildings for households with more than one voting member.