FOND DU LAC — Moraine Park Technical College is looking to borrow $55 million to expand and improve its facilities through a referendum that will be on the ballot this November.
College president Bonnie Baerwald said this project was employer-driven.
"We started meeting with employers back in late 2020 and realized that with the labor shortage issues that were pending, and the fact that employers were looking to re-skill, up-skill, and hire students right out of high school, we realized we really needed to make some changes to our facilities," Baerwald said.
The plan would address four separate projects: two at the Fond du Lac campus, one at the West Bend campus, and one at a yet-to-be-determined location.
The Fond du Lac campus would see updated classrooms and labs for manufacturing and trades programs and enhancements to health and human services facilities.
At the West Bend campus, the program would expand the manufacturing, automation, and robotics labs.
The plan would also create a new facility to train fire and EMT personnel. Currently, the training facility is located in a burn trailer at the Beaver Dam Campus, but the trailer is aging has limited space for training and equipment.
"We serve nearly 50 different volunteer and paid fire departments," Baerwald said. "So really, we want to create a more robust learning opportunity facility more centrally located that will address the advanced needs of our fire training operations."
The $55 million will come from property tax from residents in Fond du Lac, Calumet, Washington, Dodge, Columbia, Green Lake, Marquette, Waushara, Winnebago, and Sheboygan counties,according to MPTC's website.
Residents will pay about $21 dollars annually per $100,000 of property value during the next 20 years if the referendum is passed, Baerwald said.
The Fond du Lac County Board has not expressed an official position on the referendum; board member Angela Luehring said she always wants to ensure tax dollars are spent effectively, so she will be doing more research on the project.
Baerwald said this will help employers find more skilled workers to hire, while students said it could also benefit their learning experience.
"Programming is always advancing pretty quickly, so getting new stuff for that is never a bad idea," Cody Brown, an MPTC student studying software development said.
Business management student Hunter Ogie said it will open up the college's programs to more students.
"I think it'd be a good thing for them to expand and then they can take on more students and even add on more stuff if they want to," Ogie said.
MPTC grants coordinator Julie Mayrose said these changes could elevate the school
"This is such an opportunity to really bring our community our students' parents, high schools, you name it into an opportunity to learn state of the art," Mayrose said. "It's the end is going to put this region ahead of everybody."
Despite the cost to taxpayers, Baerwald said the project would benefit the local economy as a whole.
"If people feel that you know, there's the costs are too high, that's certainly their right to vote accordingly," Baerwald said. "But I will tell you that this is a community investment."
Ultimately, voters will decide whether or not to pass the referendum during the Nov. 8 election.