Green Bay schools ask voters for $92 million

Whether voters approve it or not, their school taxes will go down
Published: Nov. 3, 2022 at 4:22 PM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - Midterm elections are less than a week away, and your local school may be a part of it.

Green Bay school leaders are asking voters to approve a referendum and explaining why it would benefit students.

“You can see this crack running... all the way from here and it’s continuing to kind of expand this way.”

Chief Operations Officer Josh Patchak points to badly cracked asphalt at West High School’s stadium and a crack in the high school’s ceiling. He says seats are missing in Edison Middle School’s auditorium and bleachers that don’t fully open at East High School.

Green Bay Area Public School District officials say problems like these need to be fixed, and they hope voters will let them do that. They take money to fix.

“The way the system of funding works in the state of Wisconsin, in order to do large maintenance projects or building improvements, it requires a referendum to bond -- to get the money upfront to complete those projects,” Patchak explained.

And that project list isn’t getting shorter.

“It’s a lot of things that aren’t necessarily very visible -- so things like 56-year-old windows, boilers, things like that that just, they’re at the end of their life, right? And we need to take care of that. Give students facilities that they can be proud of. Facilities that meet the modern needs of education. And that’s what we’re looking to do here.”

The school district is asking voters to say yes to a $92 million capital referendum.

The last referendum Green Bay voters passed was in 2017, and the district has already paid off that debt.

“Paying off that debt early from the 2017 referendum saved the taxpayers $12 million in interest payments,” Patchak said.

Patchak said because the district has paid off its debt, the mill rate for taxpayers will go down even if this referendum passes. The mill rate is the tax per thousand dollars of a home’s fair market value.

The mill rate would go down even more if the referendum does not pass, but Patchak says approving the money would be worth it.

“Well-maintained and good schools help attract people to the community. It helps property values stay high. So there are benefits to citizens even if they don’t have kids in school.”

Members of the Brown County Taxpayers Association told us they’re taking a neutral position on this referendum, though they said they’re concerned about district operations, including incurring new debt after previous debts are paid off.

Green Bay is one of 13 school districts in WBAY’s viewing area posing referendum questions to voters. The others are:

  • Appleton
  • Denmark
  • Gillett
  • Hilbert (2 questions)
  • Menasha Joint
  • North Fond du Lac (2 questions)
  • Oconto Falls
  • Peshtigo
  • Pulaski (2 questions)
  • Ripon Area
  • Two Rivers
  • Waupaca

You can download a list of referendums and read the specific questions being asked in a spreadsheet from the Wisconsin Elections Commission (XLSX format).