Green Bay School Board discusses referendum projects
By Janelle Fisher
GREEN BAY – All eyes were on the Green Bay School Board Monday, May 23, as it discussed potential projects under a proposed $92.6 million November facilities referendum.
It’s a plan that would upgrade aging district buildings, repair or replace playgrounds and make improvements to equipment.
The last time the district went to the voters for a facilities referendum was in 2017, a $68.25 million facilities referendum that passed with a 70% to 30% majority.
During Monday’s presentation to the board, Josh Patchak, the district chief operations officer, said of the $92.6 million – district-wide maintenance projects would cost around $43.4 million; improvements at the high and middle schools would come in at an estimated $48 million and playgrounds would cost about $1.2 million.
If approved by the board, the ask would be on the November ballot.
No specifics were given on how it would affect the tax levy, however, the wording of the district-wide survey indicated a potential facilities referendum would not result in a tax rate increase for property owners.
The projects proposed under the referendum are focused largely on repairing or replacing existing structures and systems across the district – such as updates to emergency generators and furniture, ceiling and floor tile replacement as needed and roof replacements at East, Southwest, Franklin, Washington and West.
Several projects are also aimed at improving the district’s energy efficiency and conservation efforts – a continued transition to LED lighting, window replacements at Edison and Sullivan, upgraded HVAC systems at Sullivan and Howe and the installation of a solar array to provide power at Lombardi and King.
Patchak said the proposed projects have been on the list to get done for a while now, but cannot be done without the referendum because they exceed or would take a significant chunk out of the district’s yearly operational budget.
“We have about a $3.5 million operational budget for maintaining our facilities every year and there are some projects that just exceed that amount,” he said. “The Edison windows, for example. That’s a project that’s been on the list for some time and that project on its own is a couple of million dollars. So that would (just about) eat up our entire operational budget.”
Also on the list is the implementation of additional signage to improve the safety of bikers and walkers.
Secondary school projects
Under the proposed plan, East would see a number of upgrades – including improvements to the physical education/athletic area, improved stormwater management, auditorium upgrades and a new fire alarm system.
Proposed projects at Preble include auditorium upgrades, a commons expansion, physical education/athletic area improvements and new asphalt in the main parking lot.
Southwest projects include a new auditorium sound system and improvements to the physical education/athletic area.
Auditorium upgrades, as well as improvements to the physical education/athletic area, are proposed for West High.
Edison is slated for auditorium upgrades and a repaved track and long jump area, while Franklin would see upgrades to the auditorium and gym.
Lombardi projects include Family and Consumer Education (FACE) lab cabinetry and appliance improvements, as well as improvements to the physical education/athletic area.
The orchestra room at Washington would also see upgrades.
Patchak said the proposed projects, especially the improvements to various schools’ physical education/athletic areas, would extend the amount of time those facilities can be used, as well as improve both students’ and community members’ experiences.
“Particularly at West and Preble, where the athletic fields there are such that weather affects them very badly,” he said. “So you have a shortened season of when they can be used. Whereas, if you go with some synthetic surface, you’re able to manage that drainage a lot easier and extend that window of time, which could be used by both the community and the physical education classes.”
He said the proposed projects also have the potential to generate additional revenue for the district once completed.
“At Southwest, we’re looking at a synthetic surface for the baseball field,” he said. “That’s the only baseball field in the district that the district actually owns. So, that’s another facility there where we can get a lot more out of it. And the maintenance on it is significantly easier and cheaper once (the synthetic surface) is installed. Pre-COVID, we would bring in about $140,000 annually for rental fees, and upon completion of these projects, I would think revenue would go up.”
The proposal also includes new playgrounds at Aldo Leopold, Baird, Jackson and Kennedy, new pavement at Red Smith and new ADA playground equipment at Danz and Sullivan.
Board President Laura McCoy spoke in support of the proposed projects and reiterated that the referendum is needed because the projects are too large for the regular budget.
“When we maintain our buildings properly, we’re honoring the investment that generations of taxpayers have made in these schools for many, many years and maintaining them properly is just what we have to do,” she said. “Also, obviously it contributes to the education of our children as well. But, these are things that cannot be paid out of our regular budget because they’re so huge.”
No action was taken at Monday’s meeting.