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Mauston School District seeks community input on facilities with possible referendum looming
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Mauston School District seeks community input on facilities with possible referendum looming

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With a possible referendum for between $40 and $70 million on the horizon, the Mauston School District is reaching out to the community to both inform and ask for input.

Representatives from Plunkett Raysich Architects, Miron Construction, Baird Public Finance, the district, and Upper 90 Energy used a facilities planning meeting Jan. 15 at Westside Elementary School to present scenarios for addressing the district’s capital maintenance needs. The Jan. 15 meeting follows a Dec. 11, 2019 meeting, during which representatives from Plunkett Raysich and Miron presented the existing state of the district’s buildings.

“Understanding again, we’re very early in the process, so just look at possible scenarios,” Miron Construction Vice President Craig Uhlenbrauck asked the about 75 community members in attendance. “Community feedback is a very important part of this.”

Scenarios presented to the community include the construction of a new elementary school to replace West Side Elementary, the construction of a new elementary school to replace Lyndon Station Elementary, or the construction of a new elementary school to replace both Westside and Lyndon Station, the expansion of Grayside Elementary, and building a new middle school attached to the high school while converting the current Olson Middle School into an elementary school.

According to Uhlenbrauck, Lyndon Station Elementary is currently at student capacity, while the high school and middle school are slightly under max capacity. Grayside Elementary is about 40 students over capacity, and Westside Elementary is 50 students over capacity.

“The biggest challenges are at Westside, and then there are some struggles at Grayside,” Uhlenbrauck said.

Included in those challenges are undersized classrooms, a lack of collaboration spaces, out of date or insufficient technology and STEM facilities, and aging buildings requiring significant maintenance.

According to Lisa Voisin, Managing Director at Bair, the district is in good financial shape to tackle these projects within the next few years.

“There is an opportunity with debt going away to fill it in with new debt,” Voisin said. “If you want to replace old debt with new debt, you could have no increase (in the mill rate) and ask for $50 million.”

The current school portion of the mill rate is 10.64, which equates to school portion only taxes of about $1,064 on a $100,000 home. According to Voisin, a $50 million referendum would have no effect on the mill rate as debt from the 1999 referendum drops off. A $60 million referendum would see the mill rate increase by 0.31, or about $31 additional on a $100,000 home yearly, and a $70 million referendum would increase the mill rate by 0.80, or about $80 additional on a $100,000 home yearly.

If a referendum for the facilities is not approved by the school board or does not pass at the ballot box, the mill rate would drop under 8.00. However, Voisin noted if the district does not replace the falling off debt with new debt, state aid to the district would be significantly reduced, by about $400,000 per year.

“Twenty percent of debt payment comes back to the district in state aid,” Voisin said.

In breakout sessions during the meeting community members expressed concerns about what would happen to taxes if property values go down, whether the closing of Kmart and Shopko would affect taxes, the potential inflation costs of waiting a few additional years to go to referendum, and the amount of state aid lost if the district did not pass a referendum, among other concerns. Meeting leaders promised to address those concerns at a future meeting or on the district’s website.

The next, and currently final scheduled facilities planning meeting, is set for 6-8 p.m. Feb. 12 at Lyndon Station Elementary School. For more information, visit the district’s website at maustonschools.org.

Reach Christopher Jardine on Twitter @ChrisJJardine or contact him at 608-432-6591.

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