As Election Day nears, the Mauston School District is making a final push to inform residents of a $54.8 million referendum aimed at funding improvements for each of the schools in the district.
Mauston has held two referendum information sessions, at West Side Elementary Sept. 30 and at Mauston High School Oct. 3. A third referendum information session is scheduled for 4-6 p.m. Oct. 14 at Lyndon Station Elementary. During the sessions representatives from the district are providing tours of the facilities and providing information on the planned improvements, as well as what the referendum will mean for residents.
“Once they see it, they say ‘Oh, it makes more sense,’ which is why we’re doing these sessions,” said Mauston District Administrator Joel Heesch. “If somebody looks at the building… the building was built 20 years ago and the focus wasn’t on tech-ed and ag-ed, the focus was on four year post-secondary and you have to go to college to be successful. I’m not saying that isn’t a great pathway, but there are other ways, and so that’s what we’re looking at is making sure we have those opportunities for our kids.”
Members of the school board unanimously approved the referendum question for school improvements. Although Heesch has said they considered putting it on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he said the board decided to continue with the referendum because the maintenance and educational space needs would still remain for students and staff.
If approved, the referendum will provide capital maintenance at each of the schools in the district, with the exception of West Side Elementary. West Side Elementary will instead be taken offline and a new elementary school would be built on the district’s main campus.
Capital maintenance improvements include:
Roof replacement, converting pneumatic to digital controls for HVAC systems, an LED lighting retrofit, exterior building repairs, painting and cabinetry repairs, plumbing and electrical upgrades, flooring replacement and site/parking lot improvements at Lyndon Station Elementary School.
Converting pneumatic to digital controls for HVAC systems, an LED lighting retrofit, exterior building repairs, replacement of parts of the ceiling, flooring, doors, walls, cabinetry and lockers, upgrades to the HVAC, plumbing and electrical, bathroom renovations and site/parking lot improvements at Grayside Elementary School.
Exterior door replacement, converting pneumatic to digital controls for HVAC systems, an LED lighting retrofit, exterior building repairs, plumbing and electrical upgrades, flooring replacement, bathroom renovations, auditorium upgrades, playground equipment upgrades and site/parking lot improvements at Olson Middle School.
Roof replacement, converting pneumatic to digital controls for HVAC systems, an LED lighting retrofit, exterior building repairs, plumbing and HVAC upgrades, window replacement and site/parking lot improvements at Mauston High School.
In addition to the capital maintenance improvements Mauston High School will receive education space updates in the form of expanding technical education, agriculture, art, fabrication lab and greenhouse spaces, a secure entry to the main entrance, and an expansion and renovation of iLead Charter School.
Grayside Elementary School will receive educational space updates including an addition and renovation to classrooms on the west side of the school, improved collaboration spaces, an expanded library, upgrade makerspaces, and various building renovations.
During each informational session the district is showing how the referendum, if approved, can improve educational quality and safety for students. At Mauston High School, Principal Jim Dillin emphasized the secure entrance and educational spaces which prepare students for trade careers.
“We lose a bunch of instructional time,” Dillin said. “Half of the class is often waiting while the other half is working… the redesign will allow kids to be working at the same time.”
Dillin said the improvements will differ based on the space, but that each of the instructional areas for trades will be more efficient for students and staff and will allow more hands-on time for students.
For voters still unsure after seeing the schools, Heesch said that financially the timing is improving even from early estimates. In referendum information meetings held in spring, the district was estimating a mill rate increase of about $9 per $100,000 of assessed value, but Heesch said improved rates could mean a lower tax burden for residents.
“When we started this process a year, year and a half ago, the bond rates were at four or four and a quarter, (now) they’re at 2%,” Heesch said. “When we’re saying $9 on $100,000, that’s worst case scenario, we think if the referendum passes the mill rate will go down just based on the bond rate… there couldn’t be a better time, this is a historic low for bond rates and hopefully we can take advantage of it.”
The next referendum information meeting is from 4-6 p.m. Oct. 14 at Lyndon Station Elementary, 201 Hoehn Dr, Lyndon Station.
Reach Christopher Jardine on Twitter @ChrisJJardine or contact him at 608-432-6591.
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