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Wisconsin Dells School Board approves placing $4.8 million, five-year recurring referendum on spring 2021 ballot
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DELLS SCHOOL BOARD

Wisconsin Dells School Board approves placing $4.8 million, five-year recurring referendum on spring 2021 ballot

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Wisconsin Dells School District will ask taxpayers for up to $4.8 million on a recurring basis to cover operating expenses through the 2025-26 school year.

With a 6-1 vote, the school board approved to authorize the school district’s budget to exceed the revenue limit for recurring purposes and place the question on the spring election ballot asking taxpayers for additional funds. Board Member Bob McClyman voted in opposition to both items.

The question will be on the April 6 ballot, where Dells’ taxpayers could either approve or reject the school board’s request. The question will read:

“Shall the School District of Wisconsin Dells, Sauk, Adams, Columbia, Juneau and Marquette Counties, Wisconsin be authorized to exceed the revenue limit specified in Section 121.91, Wisconsin Statutes by $619,108 for the 2021-22 school year; by an additional $970,832 (for a total of $1,589,940) for the 2022-23 school year; by an additional $1,031,603 (for a total of $2,621,543) for the 2023-24 school year; by an additional $950,323 (for a total of $3,571,866) for the 2024-25 school year; and by an additional $1,318,534 (for a total of $4,890,400) for the 2025-26 school year and thereafter, for recurring purposes consisting of maintaining existing programs and services?”

Wisconsin Dells school board will vote to place operating referendum on spring election ballot

In an interview after the meeting, McClyman said he voted against the items since many individuals and businesses are still dealing with the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It doesn’t make sense,” MyClyman said. “Poor timing.”

District Administrator Terry Slack said homeowners with a house valued at $200,000 will see their taxes increase by $65 if the referendum passes. If voters approve the referendum, the mill rate, the estimated impact on taxpayers, is expected to increase from $7.63 per $1,000 of assessed value to $7.95 per $1,000 in the 2021-22 fiscal year. The mill rates would then increase to a projected $8.15 in 2022-23, $8.36 in 2023-24, $8.60 in 2024-25 and $8.85 in 2025-26.

Wisconsin Dells School discusses potential April 2021 operating referendum

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The mill rates were shared by Slack at the Jan. 11 school board meeting. Other items that could affect the tax rate in the referendum is the state’s biennium budget and the district’s future enrollment numbers.

The referendum’s authorization comes a little more than two years after taxpayers authorized the school district to borrow up to $33 million to build the new high school, which opened at the start of the 2020-21 school year.

'This building is remarkable:' Wisconsin Dells' new high school opens for 2020-21 school year

The school board had discussed placing an operating referendum question on the November 2020 ballot to cover operating expenses for the construction of the new high school and providing additional services, such as hiring a social worker. The idea was put on hold. Officials were hesitant to ask voters to raise taxes in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The board decided to use the district’s fund balance for one year, according to a November 2020 newsletter written by District Administrator Terry Slack.

According to the same newsletter, the effects of the operating referendum will not go into affect until December 2021, if passed.

Slack said the referendum will keep the mill rate “in check.” It would be about $1.50 per $1,000 lower than the state average for the first several years of the referendum.

“I think we’ve found going through four different scenarios at times with (Business Manager) Deb (Michel) we found a scenario that supports our needs that’s well aligned with our strategic plan and carries out the services necessary to educate our children in this district, while at the same time being fiscally responsible,” Slack said.

School Board Member Joey Van Dinter spoke positively about authorizing to place the item on the ballot and potential future growth in the Dells’ community.

“We’ve took a conservative approach and there is growth coming in this community over the next two to three years, so hopefully that will make it even better,” Van Dinter said.

Follow Erica Dynes on Twitter @EDynes_CapNews or contact her at 608-393-5346.

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