From the desk of the Administrator: Information on School District of Tomahawk referendum
By Terry Reynolds
School District of Tomahawk Administrator
TOMAHAWK – On Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2020, the Tomahawk School Board adopted a resolution authorizing a vote on the following question to appear on the ballot for the Nov. 3, 2020, election:
“Shall the School District of Tomahawk, Lincoln and Oneida Counties, Wisconsin be authorized to exceed the revenue limit specified in Section 121.91, Wisconsin Statutes, by $3,500,000 per year beginning with the 20212022 school year and ending with the 2024-2025 school year, for nonrecurring purposes consisting of expenses for ongoing educational and facility needs?”
Why is this referendum necessary?
Wisconsin Act 16 implemented revenue limits beginning with the 1993-94 school year. A district’s revenue limit is the maximum amount of revenue it may raise through state general aid and property taxes. When the revenue limits were put in place, the limits were set in relationship to the district’s current spending levels at that time.
School districts such as Tomahawk, that were already low-spending districts, were consequently penalized for spending less right from the beginning. Over the years since that time, the school district has moved from receiving a state promised two-thirds state aid funding to the district’s present level of approximately only 5-6 percent. (Please note: What the state does not provide in state aid funding, the local district taxpayers are left with financing the remaining portion of the revenue limit amount).
At the same time, as fixed costs continued to rise, and expenses continued to increase, the revenue limits have declined and have not kept pace with inflationary increases over the years. Due to this fact, the district was forced make operational cuts and to spend from the district’s fund reserves to balance their operating budget over the past years. The district could no longer afford to do this, as these designated cash reserves ensure the district does not need to short term borrow in the future to cover district expenses, as well as to maintain the designated OPEB (Other post-employment benefit) liability reserves that are required.
In certain months, especially in December, January and June, cash reserves are at their lowest levels. Due to the need to maintain fund reserves at these designated minimal levels, and in order to not to be forced to make significant cuts to current educational/co-curricular programs and future student programming needs, the district asked district residents to pass a four-year operational referendum in April of 2017. This referendum was successful, and all educational programming was able to be continued.
Unfortunately this referendum ends June 30, 2021.
In order to continue our current programming, we need once again pass another four-year operational referendum. Failure to do so will result in the loss of more than $3,000,000.00 in revenue each year.
We are asking that residents to approve this $3,500,000.00 operational referendum to allow us to continue current programming for another four years.
How can I get informed?
During the month of October, the district will be hosting two community forums to provide residents with an opportunity to gather more information on the referendum.
The dates and times are as follows: Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2020, located in the Tomahawk HS Auditorium beginning at 6 p.m.; and Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020 located in the Tomahawk HS Auditorium beginning at 6 p.m.
Please note that these meetings may need to be virtual sessions on Zoom due to the COVID-19 pandemic circumstances at that time. We will communicate this change as soon as possible.