A recent report shows that Wisconsin voters are approving and voting in favor of more school district referenda dispute economic worries brought on by COVID-19.
The Wisconsin Policy Forum says voters across the state in urban, suburban and rural districts are voting in favor of numerous referenda.
“Wisconsin voters approved more than $1.7 billion in property tax increases for their local school districts through referenda passed in the April general election,” the report stated. “The approval rate was 87% (52 of the 60 referenda were approved), marking the latest in a largely consistent trend of higher levels of voter approval for school referenda.”
This includes the referendum passed by Siren School District and Webster School District voters.
Webster will be moving forward with a $6.5 million referendum which will include upgrades to the elementary school and middle-high school.
Siren’s referendum will increase the revenue limit of the school by $300,000 over the next three years “for non-recurring purposes consisting of operating and maintaining buildings and facilities, sustaining current programs and services, and other ongoing operational expenses.”
Siren also went to referendum last year with two referendums, one for school building upgrades and the second for athletic facility upgrades, with the one passing worth $4 million.
“Drawing conclusions from this election also is challenging because it occurred amid unprecedented circumstances created by the COVID-19 crisis,” the report says. “Taking a longer view, however, we find that the higher rate of referenda approvals in recent years comes after a decade in which Wisconsin school districts have seen their main sources of revenues outpaced by inflation.”
There will be a number of referenda on the ballot come November.
“Wisconsin voters are set to consider more referenda in the upcoming November election that likely will see a much larger voter turnout. If the 87% approval rate seen so far this year were to hold through that election, then it would be the second highest approval rate for school referenda for any year on record. The year with the highest approval rate was 2018, at 90%.”
Wisconsin Policy Forum concludes that voters want schools to have better resources in the future.
“Whatever the future holds, recent trends on school referenda and what they convey about voter attitudes are one factor for policymakers to consider as they wrestle with huge budgetary challenges in the months ahead. They suggest many Wisconsin voters want to ensure their local schools have adequate financial resources, even if it means dipping into their own pockets to do so at a time of crisis.”
Read the full report here.