I’ve taken an interest in local school referenda on the April ballot and have three items I want to provide some commentary on:
1. I did some research on how much each district levies upon each $100,000 of assessed value of real property in their districts. In order from highest to lowest Siren tops the list at a whopping $941 per $100,000 of property, followed by Luck at $861, Shell Lake at $847, St. Croix Falls at $824, Cumberland at $813, Unity at $811, Spooner at $782, Grantsburg at $565, Frederic at $518, and Webster at $411. The average of these 10 districts is $737 per $100,000 of property value.
2. I am not in favor of the way Siren is marketing their referenda by continuously stating that property taxes will go down if one or both referendum questions are approved. This is because a previous $7+ million loan from 1998 will be paid in full this year. Of course, a new $6 million loan will cost less, but is this the right way to try to sell the plan? In sales and marketing, this is a common psychological strategy to get consumers interested in buying a product who otherwise wouldn’t be interested by focusing on how much it will save them instead of what it will cost. I just don’t think this type of sales tactic is appropriate to employ in this case.
3. Siren officials have made no compelling arguments to prove the need for a new athletic facility with a new track and an artificial turf field. Siren didn’t have a paved track with running lanes until sometime around the year 2000 when the current track around the football field was built. Now, after less than 20 years, the track is apparently shot. Tracks should easily last 50 years if properly built and maintained. This was a very poor investment by the district and I am not so forgiving as to simply count it as a loss and buck up more funds to build a new one.
What should be done instead is to have an engineering firm conduct a feasibility study on the different design alternatives with an emphasis on the capital cost to construct and the lifecycle costs to operate and maintain.
I support the building upgrades, especially added security measures, but cannot vote in favor of either question due to all of the above.
Michael R. Hoefs