ASHWAUBENON (NBC 26) — As voters get ready to head to the polls on April 4th, the Ashwaubenon School District is asking residents to consider a $3.9 million referendum.
Superintendent Kurt Weyers and Assistant Superintendent Keith Lucius say the district needs the added revenue in order to keep up with inflation.
They say that's because while the last state budget provided inflationary aid increase, it did not give the district the authority to increase their budget.
“When they increase aid and don’t increase the revenue limit, it becomes property tax relief," Lucius said. "Property tax relief is a good thing for our taxpayers, but it doesn’t help our district through a tight budget when inflation is increasing our costs.”
Lucius says inflation has increased costs in a number of ways. For example, due to the worker’s shortage, many of the district's vendors such as bus companies have asked to re-negotiate contracts so they can provide more competitive wages.
In addition, the schools also need to be able to offer more competitive wages to attract more employees at a time when schools nationwide are facing a shortage of teachers.
“We want to make sure we keep the high quality employees that we currently have and the high quality of teachers that we have," Weyers said. "We want to stay competitive with our salaries.”
The referendum is a five-year operational referendum, meaning it would help the school district be able to maintain their existing programs and services. The estimated increase to the mill rate is $1.68, meaning it would cost $168 per $100,000 value of a home or property in the district each year for five years.
The school board has pledged to reduce the amount of the referendum by the allowed increase to school budgets in the next state budget.
“The reality is that we’ve seen our property tax rate go down over the last 10 years and go down significantly over the last year, so this increase will still be less than what the property tax rate was just four years ago,” Lucius said.
According to the district, Ashwaubenon already spends less per student than the state average. During the 2020-2021 school year, Ashwaubenon's spending per student was 93.5% of the Wisconsin average.
Without an increase in funding, school officials say the district is facing a number of cuts. Those include more than 30 teacher layoffs, cuts in specialized class offerings, cuts in technology and eliminating travel for non-conference athletic events.
The district encourages residents to learn more about the referendum and reach out with questions. The district will host an informational session regarding the referendum from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m March 22 at Cormier School. More details about the referendum can be found here.