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Voters approve $54.8 million Mauston School District referendum
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Voters approve $54.8 million Mauston School District referendum

From the Fave 5: Reporter Christopher Jardine shares his five favorite stories of 2020 series
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Voters in the Mauston School District voted in favor of a $54.8 million referendum, providing funding for the district to build a new elementary school, update existing spaces and make capital improvements.

Results from the Nov. 3 General Election show voters supporting the measure by a vote of 2,756 yes votes to 2,127 no votes.

Mauston School District Administrator Joel Heesch said that as he was watching results come in overnight he felt thankful to the community.

“You have to thank the Board of Education, the administrative team, the staff,” Heesch said. “Equally important you have to thank the voters, our family, even those that maybe don’t have a stake in the game anymore, someone who their children are already grown … you just know that something like this is the right thing to do for our community.”

Now that the referendum has passed, the next step for the district is to start the planning stages. While the district had basic outlines they presented during community outreach on the referendum, the district was clear that they were not going to spend money on fleshing out those plans before the referendum passed.

“We felt if we would have started that process that would have been putting the cart before the horse, and we didn’t want to take anything for granted,” Heesch said.

“We didn’t have drawings, we didn’t have what the new elementary school was going to look like, we just presented the things we have for needs, so the next thing is let’s put the pencil to paper to figure out what that’s going to look like.”

The process will begin with a communications meeting on Nov. 5, followed by tours of newer elementary schools. District staff will look to what worked well for those newer schools while also questioning staff for what they would do over or change in those buildings.

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“We’ll develop different groups within the school, the community, and begin the process of figuring out what the new school is going to look like,” Heesch said. “That was only one part of the referendum, but it was the biggest part of the referendum, so that’s our starting point.”

In the immediate future, Heesch says there will be steps taken towards design and planning, but residents should not expect to “see shovels in the ground” until late spring or summer of 2021. Although the final timeline is not yet concrete, Heesch said the district is planning to have the new elementary school complete and running by the start of the 2022-2023 school year.

While the referendum passed relatively easily, about 44% of voters in the district voted against the measure. Heesch said the district plans to keep all residents involved going forward, regardless of whether they supported or disapproved of the referendum.

“What we’ll do is the same thing we did throughout this process, we’ll be transparent and continue to share whatever information we have on a timely basis to make sure everyone is as informed as we wanted them to be throughout this referendum process,” Heesch said. “I don’t think it’s necessarily reaching out to the no votes, but reaching out to every vote, to every individual. I want the voices of our community to be heard, and that is going to continue to ring loud and clear as we move forward because whether it was a yes vote or a no vote, you’ll still have a voice and still be a part of what we’re doing and we want to make sure you have the ability to be heard.”

To pay for the referendum, residents in the Mauston School District will see an increase in their mill rate of $0.09 per $1,000 of equalized property value. The increase in mill rate means that for a $100,000 home a resident would see an increase in taxes, due to the referendum and not counting any other tax changes, of $9 per year.

As part of the referendum the district will update Tech Ed classrooms, renovate and expand iLead Charter classrooms at the high school, improve site safety, traffic flow, and site drainage at the main campus, update Olson Middle School, build an addition to and remodel parts of Grayside Elementary School, perform capital maintenance at Lyndon Station Elementary School and each of the other schools in the district, and build a new elementary school, which would include the Mauston Montessori School, at the main campus.

Heesch said the improvements will “move our district forward for decades.”

“I’m humbled, I’m so appreciative of them coming out and voting first of all, but voting yes for something I’m passionate about and believe in 100%, and them coming out and supporting that really humbles me,” Heesch said. “It’s very inspirational to know you have that type of support out there for the work we’re doing… Ultimately the voters felt like this was the right thing, which was the same thing we felt.”

For more information on the Mauston School District and the referendum, visit maustonschools.org/district/capital-maintenance-referendum.cfm.

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

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