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Ashwaubenon district to vote on $3.9 million referendum

Ashwaubenon School District
District leaders say the referendum is designed to maintain the quality programming that already exists within the district. Kris Leonhardt photo

By Josephine Hinderman

Contributing Writer

ASHWAUBENON – On April 4, voters in the Ashwaubenon School District will decide the fate of a $3.9 million referendum.

District leaders say the referendum is designed not necessarily to introduce new programs or propose projects, but rather to maintain quality programming that already exists within the district, and that the referendum exists due to the state’s school budget limits not keeping up with inflation.

“This is different from other referendums that we’ve done,” said assistant superintendent Keith Lucius. “Inflation is hitting us so hard, and we need to make decisions now because we need to make decisions on staff. We have to make decisions on programs, we have to make decisions on how the next school year is gonna run, and without those increases, we have to protect ourselves so that we can maintain the quality programming that our community and students expect.

“It’s really a matter of putting out what we need to keep up with inflation and being sure that we can continue everything that we’re offering.

“Previous referendums have been about adding things that are new programs or services or buildings; this one is purely to keep doing what we’re doing.”

In a fast fact sheet distributed by the Ashwaubenon School District Board and a powerpoint put together and presented Jan. 9 at Valley View Elementary School by Lucius and Ashwaubenon School District superintendent Kurt Weyers, the board hopes to inform the public with as many facts as possible so they can make a good, educated decision once the time of the referendum vote comes.

“We want to be transparent on this, and we want to make sure that we have, and present, all the information possible so that people can make a decision,” Lucius explained.

Initially, the referendum was intended to be $4.9 million per year for five years, based on data on the cost of residents per student increase ($2,305.44) multiplied by resident students within the district (2,161), as well as other inflation-related needs.

But after getting opinions and feedback from the public, the district lowered the referendum to $3.9 million per year for five years, and 67% of a survey of 987 responders from the community said that they were in support of the referendum.

This referendum will be dedicated to maintaining quality programs, technology, staffing and class sizes within the district, not adding anything new, especially with inflation leading to increased costs in busing, cleaning services, staffing and increased prices of supplies from supply chains.

Lucius said that with the current economy, there is an 8% increase in costs from 2022 and a 4.7% increase from 2021, and there is an expected increase of about 7% in 2023.

As of 2020, Wisconsin was ranked 25th in the U.S. when it comes to how much is spent per student, having formerly been in 11th place in 2002, with the current revenue limit base per student at $10,149.81.

Wisconsin’s school spending is currently 5.6% below the average of $13,494, with Ashwaubenon’s spending being a low-spending district in Wisconsin, spending about 93.5% of the Wisconsin average ($12,740) per pupil within the district as of 2021.

Lucius explained that with an increase in budget, the district would struggle to maintain quality programming, and would result in the district reducing class offerings, available classroom technology, opportunities for athletics and other activities and reduced spending on building maintenance.

If the referendum passes, the estimated impact on the mill rate is $1.68, which is down $1.03 (-13.5%) compared to last year’s mill rate and this is an impact that will decrease as property values increase and when the state increases Equalization Aid.

As an example, the property tax increase on a $100,000 house would only be $196 annually, an amount that is $0.31 below what the mill rate was in 2017-18.

“We’d like the public to know is that we are not alone in this. Districts across the state are in the same boat because it is a state budgetary issue, so we’ve got other districts in the area who are having similar budgetary issues as us… This is not an Ashwaubenon-only issue – this is a state-wide issue,” Lucius stated.

Future public meetings on the referendum will be held Wednesday, Feb. 22, 6-7 p.m., at Pioneer Elementary School, and Wednesday, March 22, 6-7 p.m., at the Cormier Early Education Center.

Questions may also be sent to Lucius at [email protected] or Weyers at [email protected], or call (920)492-2900 and ask for Kieth or Kurt, or visit the referendum website https://www.ashwaubenon.k12.wi.us/community/2023-referendum.cfm.

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