By Kevin Boneske
ASHWAUBENON – A pair of school referendums will be on the Tuesday, April 7, spring general election ballot for district voters to consider.
The Ashwaubenon school board is seeking voter approval of an operational referendum to exceed the district’s state-imposed revenue limit by $730,000 annually, starting with the 2020-21 school year and ending in 2024-25, and a capital referendum for issuing up to $10.05 million in general obligation bonds to pay for a district-wide facility improvement program.
Keith Lucius, district business director, said the wording of the operational referendum specifies the funds could only be used for non-recurring purposes consisting of expenses associated with providing student mental health services and utility expenses associated with operating heating, ventilation and air conditioning.
Board members decided to designate $650,000 of the operational referendum for student mental health services.
The other $80,000 would operate air conditioning that could be added throughout the high school and Pioneer and Valley View elementary schools as part of the capital referendum.
The estimates the district obtained for various facility improvement projects put the price tag of the additional air conditioning at $4.35 million.
In the event the operational referendum passes but not the capital referendum, thereby resulting in additional air conditioning not being approved but there being money to pay for operating it, the board stated it would only levy $650,000 annually in overriding the district’s revenue limit to pay for student mental health services and not the additional $80,000.
Tammy Nicholson, district pupil services director, said the operational referendum would fund student mental health services by paying for the following additional staff:
• Three school counselors.
• A pair of social workers.
• Two social emotional learning coaches.
• Two graduation coaches – partnering with the Boys & Girls Club.
• Adding a .33 full-time equivalent for a full-time at-risk position at the high school.
In addition, Nicholson said the district would also be adding social emotional learning materials and training as part of the operational referendum.
Capital referendum projects
Along with air conditioning, the capital referendum calls for: safety and security improvements; facility and building infrastructure updates and site improvements; and the acquisition of furnishings, fixtures and equipment.
Estimates obtained by the district place the cost of improving school security at Cormier and Pioneer at $3.9 million.
The district’s estimate is $1.8 million for updating the facilities to remove asbestos, repair the Pioneer gym foundation, repair the high school track, replace three gym floors, replace light fixtures in the gyms and replace windows and doors at Parkview Middle School.
Tax rate impact
District estimates for the impact the pair of referendums would have on the tax rate project the operational referendum would increase the mill rate by 55 cents per $1,000 above the current property tax level for each of the next five years.
The capital referendum would increase the mill rate by 10 cents per $1,000 above the current property tax level while the bonds are being paid back.
Though paying back the debt on the capital referendum could be spread out over 20 years, Lucius said the repayment period will depend on factors such as interest rates on the bonds, for which lower rates could reduce the period to pay off the debt with callable bonds paid off earlier.
Board members and district staff have voiced support for extending an operational referendum levy after five years to continue to fund student mental health services.
The board could decide to hold another operational referendum in subsequent years to continue or adjust the amount of a revenue cap override to take effect after the 2024-25 school year.