East Troy School Board considers referendum

By Tracy Ouellette

      With the East Troy Community School District facing a nearly $1.2 million structural deficit for the 2022-23 school year, the School Board has been meeting to discuss the possibility of going to referendum to ask the community for more money for operations and facility needs.

      The board met Monday night in a workshop session to discuss, in depth, the facility needs and the process of putting out a community survey. The board discussed how to outline the deficit problem and the district’s needs in the survey and gauge community support.

      One of the goals with the referendum workshops is to “clarify the facts,” District Administrator Chris Hibner told the board.

      Educating the community on the need for more funding is a priority for the board. At Monday’s meeting the board heard from the survey company and talked about specific issues to include in the survey when asking the community for its input.

      The board discussed asking the community how much, in terms of a dollar amount of “tax impact,” would it support if a referendum was brought forth.

      With a goal of maintaining programming and the district’s priorities to education, Hibner told the board difficult decisions were on horizon. Read Hibner’s column on Page 4 for more information on the district’s situation.

      The board discussed a few options ranging from the bare minimum needed to maintain the district’s programming and services to what it would look like to ask for everything needed to fix the problem.

      The survey will include questions about an operational and capital improvement referendum. The district has need of money for both with higher staffing costs and delayed maintenance projects.

      The School District has repeatedly cut costs over the decade or so to balance the annual budget, but any more cuts will affect programming and staff to levels district administration and the School Board fear will be a detriment to the students and the community.

      The district went to referendum in April 2020 and again in April 2021 for operations and facility needs, but both requests failed.

      When revenue limits were set back in 1993 each school district was placed in a formula based on it spending history. East Troy’s history of conservative spending placed the district at the bottom 16% of districts in the state. Some districts, even with the same number of students and same demographics, receive millions more per year because they were placed at a higher level in the formula, according to district officials.

      The East Troy schools also compete with surrounding area district for students because of the Open Enrollment options available to parents. All of the surrounding area districts, with the exception of Palmyra-Eagle, have passed building and/or operational referendums in recent years, including Mukwonago, Elkhorn and Waterford, which all draw students from East Troy.

      The next referendum workshop meeting will be 5 p.m. Monday, Oct. 17. The public is encouraged to attend or watch on the School District’s YouTube channel to stay informed and offer feedback.

Comments are closed.