School District of Tomahawk referendum defeated by razor-thin margin
Support for measure was strong in city, but lagged in townships
By Jalen Maki
Tomahawk Leader Editor
TOMAHAWK – The School District of Tomahawk’s referendum, which asked taxpayers for $3.5 million per year beginning with the 2021-2022 school year and ending with the 2024-2025 school year, was narrowly defeated by Lincoln and Oneida County voters on Tuesday, Nov. 3.
According to preliminary data from the county, 2,469 Lincoln County voters (49.74%) voted “yes” on the measure, while 2,495 (50.26%) voted “no,” a difference of just 26 votes.
The margins were equally close in Oneida County, where the towns of Nokomis and Little Rice, which are within the district, also voted on the referendum. There, 592 “yes” votes were cast (48.97%), and 617 “no” votes were tallied (51.03%), a margin of 25 votes.
The referendum was defeated by 51 votes, according to preliminary data.
School District of Tomahawk Administrator Terry Reynolds previously stated that, in the event the referendum failed, the Board of Education would “need to make some very difficult decisions regarding cuts in staffing, student educational programming, and building maintenance.”
“All areas will be on the table for consideration, since we could not afford to continue to dip into the District fund balance to cover the costs for the current educational programming and building maintenance expenses,” he said.
The district will face an average budget deficit of $3,929,097 million per year over the next four years following the referendum’s failure, according to Reynolds.
Reynolds stated in September that it is “very likely” that another referendum attempt would occur in April 2021 “to avoid such drastic cuts in academic and co-curricular programming.”
Support shown in city; different story in townships
Preliminary precinct data shows the majority of City of Tomahawk voters supported the referendum. However, the Town of Nokomis in Oneida County was the lone township to see a majority of voters support the referendum. The majority of voters in each other township where the measure appeared on the ballot voted against it.
In most townships, the referendum’s margin of defeat was narrow.
In the Town of Bradley, 749 voters (48.99%) supported the referendum, while 780 (51.01%) voted against it.
The 32 voters in favor/34 against (48.48%/51.52%) split in the Town of Rock Falls was another example of the referendum falling just short of majority support.
Referendum voting data by precinct
Precinct Yes Votes (%) No Votes (%)
City of Tomahawk Wards 1 and 2 295 (60.70%) 191 (39.30%)
City of Tomahawk Wards 3 and 4 315 (52.50%) 285 (47.50%)
Town of Birch 0 (0%) 2 (100%)
Town of Bradley 749 (48.99%) 780 (51.01%)
Town of Harrison 138 (44.81%) 170 (55.19%)
Town of King 301 (46.67%) 344 (53.33%)
Town of Little Rice (Oneida County) 105 (41.18%) 150 (58.82%)
Town of Nokomis (Oneida County) 487 (51.05%) 467 (48.95%)
Town of Rock Falls 32 (48.48%) 34 (51.52%)
Town of Skanawan 130 (46.59%) 149 (53.41%)
Town of Tomahawk 124 (41.47%) 175 (58.53%)
Town of Wilson 78 (37.86%) 128 (62.14%)
Data courtesy of the Lincoln County Clerk’s office and Oneida County
Reynolds: Program, staffing cuts would be ‘extremely devastating’
Reynolds said on Thursday, Nov. 5 that the district is “very disappointed” that the referendum failed, and reiterated that he anticipated another referendum vote in April 2021, “as the amount of program and staffing cuts that would be necessary to make up the anticipated shortfall of $3.5 million each year would be extremely devastating for the educational programming of our students.”