POYNETTE — No referendums and a steady tax rate highlight Poynette School District’s 2017-18 budget as leaders consider significant facility upgrades.

Superintendent Matt Shappell reported the school district’s tax rate of $9.06 per $1,000 of equalized value, up from $8.74 last year. This year marks the fourth in row that residents in the district will pay a rate near $9.

Poynette has not needed a referendum to exceed the revenue limit for several years, Shappell said, though that could change depending on how the school board decides to pay for long-term maintenance totaling $9.6 million over 10 years.

“Right now, nothing’s off the table,” he said when asked if Poynette might go to referendum to pay for its facility upgrades. Even if the district opts to try for a construction referendum, it wouldn’t be on next April’s ballot since Poynette is expected to still be planning its construction into the spring. Funding long-term maintenance without going to referendum is possible, though Shappell said that would be difficult to pull off without severely impacting programming for students.

“We’ll put kids above carpet any day,” Shappell said of Poynette’s student-first priorities.

The construction firm Findorff last year completed a facility study for Poynette — “an in-depth investigation of not only maintenance but the instructional viability” of the district’s facilities, Shappell said. Big-ticket upgrades would include new roofs, while also enhancing “21st-century learning” opportunities, which could involve bigger classrooms.

Poynette’s total budget is balanced at $11.96 million. Its total tax levy is $6.15 million.

Property values in the district climbed $20.2 million to $679 million.

Poynette’s full-time-equivalent student enrollment is 1,084, down from 1,126 FTE students last year.

General state aid fell by $289,000 to $5.3 million.

No students in the district are using private-school vouchers.

Teachers received prorated raises as high as $1,000, while support staff received an additional 30 cents an hour, Shappell reported.

Poynette like other Wisconsin school districts received a $200 per-pupil increase in categorical aid. While Shappell appreciated the revenue boost, he said he hopes Wisconsin lawmakers do more to help rural schools.

“I think the Legislature struggles to find a balance in supporting all districts,” he said. “I feel like smaller and rural districts like ours, where enrollment fluctuates” need help.

“Items got vetoed (in the state budget) that may have had a positive impact on rural districts, and that’s disappointing.

“The funding formula needs to be revisited, and I believe we can’t be afraid of doing the hard work necessary to make sure we can perpetuate what is basically the foundation of our democracy: public schools.”Poynette’s best features remain a “dollar savvy” school board and supportive community, Shappell said. “In Poynette, we punch well above our weight with our programming and kids, especially with a district our size.

“We get phenomenal support from our parents. I mean, we’ll have 500 folks show up for third- and fourth-grade concerts. This is a unique and very special place.”

Portage Daily Register reporter