Administrator says 40 information sessions were held

By Heather Ruenz

SLN staff

With the midterm election mere days away, which will include referenda for voters in the Big Foot Union High School District, District Administrator Doug Parker said the district has put forth a great effort to inform voters.

“We’ve held 40 information sessions – at municipal meetings, schools, clubs –anywhere throughout the district where people would listen to us, but still, the opinions have been all over the place,” he said last week.

One of the most challenging pieces of information Parker said he’s tried to relay is that taxes will go down even if both referendum questions are approved.

“Because the previous referendum to exceed the revenue limit is ending, and there’s been an increase in property values, the taxes will go down. “It’s hard for people to understand that,” Parker said.

“We were very excited to have a 25 cent drop in the levy for next year, saving taxpayers $25 per $100,000 home. Our fiscal efficiency, increased property values, reduction in Fund 80 levy, and increased three-year average enrollment all contributed to the savings. This also translates into an additional $8 per $100,000 decrease from our original prediction if both referendums pass on Nov. 6,” he added.

Parker said after years of declining enrollment at Big Foot, there has been an increase for the past three years.

“We’re doing some amazing things here and hope it continues,” he said. “Last night we had an unbelievable band and choir concert. It was packed to the point of being standing room only,” Parker said.

He noted that Big Foot had two National Merit finalists last year, while some schools don’t even have one student earn the honor. But it’s tough for districts to plan far ahead.

“We try to be as efficient and productive as possible and our ultimate goal is to be on the positive side of things but we can only see so far,” he said.

 

Details on questions

The first referendum question on the Nov. 6 ballot asks that the district be authorized to general obligation bonds in an amount not to exceed $7.8 million for the cost to construct and equip an outdoor athletic facility.

The last referendum in the district to address outdoor athletics was 20 years ago, in 1998, for nearly $15 million and included updates to school spaces, and construction of the east and west wings of the school.

The current proposal includes the building of two tennis courts, a track facility, artificial turf soccer and football field, two baseball fields and two softball fields. The plan also proposes a new press box, concession stand, new lighting and fencing around some facilities.

The upgrades are overdue and needed, Parker said.

One example is the need for nine lanes to host track meets – the school currently has six. Also, normal wear and tear on the tennis courts has left them damaged and none are lighted, which sometimes prevents the junior varsity team from competing if the varsity match runs late.

According to the website, more than 61 percent of students participated in at least one sport in the 2016-17 school year.

The numbers also show that since the year 2000, Big Foot has won 62 conference championships, had eight teams advance to state competitions with three runner up finishes and one state title, and had 14 individual state champions.

Question No. 2 requests authorization for the district to exceed the revenue limit by $350,000 per year for three years for non-recurring purposes including expenses of employing a school resource officer, technology improvements, maintenance improvements (including roof repair) and site and parking lot improvements.

Reasons for the request to exceed revenue limits include Big Foot getting minimal state aid due to high property values and modest enrollment numbers, the annual operational levy limit being tied to student enrollment and unable to increase without going to referendum, and the limit on operational resources due to state policies.

School district’s capital borrowing referendum and operational/revenue limit referendum must be done as two separate ballot questions because they have distinct purposes, hence the reason for two questions on the ballot.

The district encompasses the villages of Fontana, Sharon and Walworth, as well as portions of the towns of Delavan, Linn, Sharon and Walworth.

 

Open door policy

Parker said if people still have questions, he hopes they’ll reach out to him.

“I’m more than happy to talk with anyone who has questions,” he said.

Contact Parker by phone at 262-394-4501 or email at drparker@bigfoot.k12.wi.us. For more information visit bigfootrecreation.org/Referendum.

 
 

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