By Kevin Boneske
ASHWAUBENON – The process of adding staff and improving facilities is underway in the Ashwaubenon School District following voter approval April 7 of two referendum questions.
“Obviously, we’re very excited,” said Superintendent Kurt Weyers.
Results from the Brown County clerk’s office show the 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, passed 2,603 to 1,728.
Support for the capital referendum to issue up to $10.05 million in general obligation bonds to pay for a district-wide facility improvement program also exceeded 60 percent with a vote of 2,824 to 1,501.
The wording of the operational referendum specified funds may 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 systems.
Board members designated $650,000 of the operational referendum for student mental health services and the other $80,000 to operate air conditioning to be added throughout the high school and Pioneer and Valley View elementary schools as part of the capital referendum.
With the approval, Weyers said the district is posting additional staff positions it will hire and have in place for the 2020-21 school year.
The district’s plans presented at public forums leading up to the spring general election called for hiring:
• Three school counselors.
• Two 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.
Those plans also include adding social emotional learning materials and training as part of the operational referendum.
Capital referendum projects
Along with the additional air conditioning, which the district’s estimate listed at $4.35 million, the capital referendum also authorized the following: 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 put the cost of improving school security at Cormier and Pioneer elementary schools 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.
Keith Lucius, district business director, said voter approval of the capital referendum authorizes the district to begin the facility improvements this spring when some projects could take place with students not physically in schools because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
He said the district will be looking to bid out projects at times of the year when companies could be looking for work and more favorable-priced bids could be received.
To bond for the projects, Lucius said the district is working with its financial consultant, Baird, and will likely first seek the issuance of short-term bond anticipation notes and then proceed with long-term bonding when the market settles for a better interest rate.
He said paying off the bonds for the capital referendum could be spread out over 20 years, but the repayment period may be shortened with callable bonds paid off earlier to save the district interest.
Lucius said the bond repayment would be set up for the impact on the district’s mill rate to be as stated leading up to the referendums.
District estimates projected 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 with the capital referendum increasing the mill rate by 10 cents per $1,000 above the current property tax level while the bonds are being paid back.