Ashwaubenon School District hosts information session on referendum

Fourth and final meeting about referendum
Published: Mar. 22, 2023 at 11:29 PM CDT
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ASHWAUBENON, Wis. (WBAY) - On Wednesday night, the Ashwaubenon School District administrators held the fourth and final information meeting about the school district’s operational referendum at Cormier School. The administration is asking residents to vote on April 4 on a $3.9 million referendum over the next five years, for a total of $19.5 million.

If the referendum does pass, the estimated impact on the mill rate would be a maximum of $1.68. For example, the property tax impact on a $100,000 home would be $168 annually. The number could change because the state has yet to approve Governor Evers’ budget.

If the state does provide additional funding to Ashwaubenon Schools from Governor Evers’ budget, the school board has committed to reducing that amount.

“If the referendum would fail, we’re looking at cutting 31 full-time teachers which is a little over 10 percent of our teaching staff, and cutting some upper-level AP programming or some of the special education programming,” said Ashwaubenon Schools Superintendent Kurt Weyers. “We’re really proud of the education we offer here in Ashwaubenon. This would really put a change in us in what we provide a variety of different pathways for our students.”

Weyers said the state statute requires the school district to inform teachers of layoffs by mid-April.

”So it’s very tricky for school administrators, superintendent, assistant superintendent, business managers to be able to figure out their budget and set their staffing because we’re not sure what the state budget is going to be,” Weyers said. “And so it’s a little bit backward, but it makes it complicated for us, as school officials for sure.”

Assistant Superintendent of Ashwaubenon Schools Keith Lucius said they are trying to have their budget keep up with inflation. Weyers and Lucius said this is not just an Ashwaubenon problem, it’s a state of Wisconsin problem.

“In the last state budget, they increased school aid significantly, and we saw a significant increase in school aid, but they did not increase school revenue limits,” Lucius said. “So that aid all flowed through to property tax relief and reduced our property taxes for our residents. It didn’t allow us to keep up with inflation. That’s why we had used the federal COVID relief money to balance our budget for the last two years. Now that that money’s gone, we’ve got to fill that hole that has been created.”

He said it’s the biggest challenge when the budget can’t move but all their costs go up.

“So costs for busing, costs for cleaning, costs for supplies have all gone up significantly, and the state has, through the revenue limit, not allowed those to go for us for school districts to increase,” Lucius said. “The state hasn’t settled this upcoming budget so we don’t know what increases they will include this year. Whatever the state gives us, as far as additional funding and budget authority, the board will use that first and then only use what’s needed for this referendum. This won’t be added on top of the state budget, any state budget increases will reduce the amount of referendum used.”

Lucius said this referendum acts as catching up for what wasn’t done the previous year. The state directed schools to use federal COVID relief money to balance the budget over the last two years.

“The state has talked about this deficit that they created and they’re aware of it, but we won’t know how much they’re able to do to address that until we get into July and August,” Lucius said. “We’ve got to make staffing and enrollment decisions and planning and have our budget time before that time.”

The goal is to keep teachers and the current staff as is. With potential teacher cuts, it could impact the small class-to-teacher ratio and take the focus away from those who need it.

“We are just trying to get the community informed and that’s our whole goal with this is the community has valued the schools,” Lucius said. “This is what it’s going to cost to keep the schools at the level they’ve always wanted and always supported given the information and let them decide.”