Tax rate could drop in Howard-Suamico with new referendum
By Ben Rodgers
SUAMICO – The Howard-Suamico school board learned of a potential tax rate drop in the future at its Monday, Oct. 26, meeting, one that bodes well for a possible referendum question and for taxpayers.
“You do have a very low debt load,” said Michele Wiberg, chief sales and marketing officer for PMA, a consulting firm hired by the district. “So when you prepay debt with the levy you just set this evening ($30,375,445), your debt outstanding after that point will probably be around $10 million, the bulk of which will be paid back over the next five-year period.”
Wiberg said this will lead to a potential tax rate drop in five years where taxpayers can expect the $9.19 tax rate (also approved at the meeting) to drop, even if voters approve another referendum question, which the district is in the process of planning.
“I think the planning and the foresight that has happened in Howard-Suamico has just been tremendous,” Wiberg said. “So when we talk about the opportunity the district has now, it is by no means accidental. It is the result of planning done by the board and leadership over a number of years.”
The potential tax rate drop shows a $9.19 tax rate through 2024, where depending on how much the district asks voters to approve in a possible referendum in April, she said it could drop considerably.
The model also incorporates interest rates between 3.5 and 3.75 percent, which are high compared to the rates available right now, Wiberg said.
The board has until January to finalize a referendum question for the April election, but it’s looking at maintaining teacher hires to reduce classroom size and teacher compensation it was able to achieve when voters approved the last referendum in 2018.
District voters rejected a $4 million recurring referendum with more than 70 percent of the vote in 2017.
In 2018, voters approved a non-recurring referendum for the district to exceed the state-imposed revenue cap by $5.85 million a year for five years.
The board has also discussed facilities improvements recently, with a portion of a referendum question going to improve Bay View Middle School.
“The combination of really low debt, really low interest rates, and low inflation gives us some pretty tremendous options to consider,” said Mike Juech, assistant superintendent of operations.
A community task force has started to meet to learn more about the issues in the district and provide the board with a suggestion that could help result in another referendum question.
Superintendent Damian LaCroix said referendums every few years are hard on communities, but it’s what the voters wanted with the 2017 failure.
“All things being equal, I would never want to go to another referendum again,” LaCroix said. “It’s time and energy that could be spent on academics and programming, the things we’re here to do, and frankly it’s tough on communities.”