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Wisconsin Dells high school referendum passes
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Wisconsin Dells high school referendum passes

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Voting 6

Wisconsin Dells voters wait through long lines in the morning before an early afternoon lull during the election Nov. 6.

The Wisconsin Dells High School referendum passed by a margin of 64 percent in favor to 36 percent against, according to unofficial results posted by the five counties covering the School District of Wisconsin Dells. As of publishing, the referendum has 3,600 yes votes and 1991 no votes with all municipalities reporting.

The referendum asked voters to approve $33,685,000 for the new school, with about $27 million provided through a premier resort tax raised by the City of Wisconsin Dells and the Village of Lake Delton, a $3.2 million land donation from Todd and Shari Nelson, and a cash donation from Sally Olson Bracken of $500,000. The school will be built on 80 acres of land donated by the Nelsons located off of Highway 12. The Nelsons have also pledged an additional 65 acres of land if additional space becomes necessary in the future.

“The funds… will cover the construction of a new high school (and) repurposing the existing school into a middle school,” said Terry Slack, superintendent. “This plan will also address overcrowding issues and long overdue maintenance needs.”

Under the proposal, the new high school will hold all students from grades 9-12 in the district, while the current high school would be converted to a middle school holding students from grades 6-8. The district elementary schools will have students from grades K or 4K through 5.

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Construction will begin on the high school in May of 2019, according to Slack, with the school available for use in late 2020. The total building area of the school will be 190,096 square feet under the proposed design, with 134,820 square feet of total program area. The design also includes six athletic fields and three practice spaces, which would be funded by the premier resort tax and not funds from the referendum. The district has contracted CG Schmidt for leading construction, with local contractors encouraged to submit bids for portions of the project.

The district passed two possible mill rates to prepare for the referendum vote. With the referendum passing, the mill rate, which is the amount of taxes assessed per $1,000 in property value, will raise to 0.008288. The district estimates that this will cost a taxpayer about $86 annually per $100,000 of property value.

“The School District Board and Administration are so grateful to all of the community members, parents, and staff who provided feedback and opinions throughout the facility planning process,” Slack said. “We are very eager to be moving forward with our plans to construct a new High School.”

“The District is so pleased that voters share our vision of investing in our schools by providing a modernized campus for our students, staff and community to enjoy for decades to come.”

The district is included in parts or Adams, Columbia, Juneau, Marquette, and Sauk counties, and serves the municipalities of Lake Delton, Dellona, Delton, Lyndon, Wisconsin Dells, Dell Prairie, Douglas, Jackson, Springville, Newport, and New Haven.

The district proposed the new high school as the current high school faces issues of severe overcrowding. The current high school is at 135 percent of its target capacity, and was projected to be 200 students over capacity by the 2021-2022 school year if the referendum did not pass.

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

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