Staffing cuts, larger class sizes on horizon after referendum’s defeat, Reynolds says
Spending request rejected by 33 votes
By Jalen Maki
Tomahawk Leader Editor
TOMAHAWK – For the second time in less than six months, voters have rejected a referendum proposed by the School District of Tomahawk by a razor-thin margin.
According to April 6 Spring Election results from the Lincoln County Clerk’s office, 1,062 people in the county (49.67%) voted “yes” on the referendum, while 1,076 (50.33%) voted “no,” a difference of 14 votes in Lincoln County.
When the Town of Nokomis and Town Little Rice, each in Oneida County, were factored in, the difference grew slightly. In total, 1,332 people (50.63%) voted against the referendum, while 1,299 (49.37%) voted in favor, a difference of 33 votes.
The district sought $3.25 million per year beginning in the 2021-2022 school year and ending in the 2024-2025 school year.
The 33-vote margin of defeat was nearly as narrow as the one in 2020, when a referendum asking for $3.5 million per year for four years was rejected by 26 votes. That razor-thin defeat led to the referendum that appeared on ballots earlier this month.
The district’s four-year referendum approved by voters in April of 2017 is set to expire on June 30.
Lower turnout; Support still strong in Tomahawk, but lagged in townships
Turnout was drastically lower this month than it was in last fall’s election.
Only 5,151 of Lincoln County’s 22,441 registered voters (22.95%) cast ballots on April 6. In the Nov. 3, 2020 General Election, 16,573 people (73.85%) voted.
As was the case in Nov. 2020, support for the referendum was strong in the City of Tomahawk, but lagged in most townships. However, township support by percentage improved slightly relative to last fall.
A smaller percentage of Town of Bradley voters showed support for the April referendum compared to its Nov. 2020 counterpart. On Nov. 3, 749 voters (48.99%) supported the referendum, while 780 (51.01%) voted against it. On April 6, 286 people (45.76%) voted “yes,” while 339 (54.24%) voted “no.”
The towns of Harrison, Nokomis, and Rock Falls were the only townships to see a majority of voters support the spending request. The majority of voters in each other township voted against it.
Reynolds: Staffing reductions, increased class sizes on horizon
District Administrator Terry Reynolds expressed disappointment in the result of the referendum.
“(The district) worked very hard to provide the community with as much information necessary to understand why we needed to ask residents for permission to continue the requested funding levels for another four years,” he stated.
Due to the referendum’s defeat, the district will need to operate with $3 million less in operational revenue beginning July 1.
“Approximately 80% of the district budget is designated for employee salaries and benefits,” Reynolds said. “This loss in revenue forces the district to reduce staffing substantially.”
Reynolds said that with the reduction of staff, there will be increased class sizes at all levels, program eliminations and reductions, fewer options for courses, maintenance and technology upgrade delays, and less public access and use of the schools.
“We are currently working to finalize the 2021-2022 district budget, the total staff layoffs necessary to continue to operate, and yet with these limitations provide the best education we can for our students,” Reynolds stated.
Referendum voting data by precinct
Precinct Yes Votes (%) No Votes (%)
City of Tomahawk Wards 1 and 2 102 (62.20) 62 (37.80)
City of Tomahawk Wards 3 and 4 145 (56.64) 111 (43.36)
City of Tomahawk Wards 5 and 6 147 (59.51) 100 (40.49)
Town of Birch 0 (0) 0 (0)
Town of Bradley 286 (45.76) 339 (54.24)
Town of Harrison 60 (50.42) 59 (49.58)
Town of King 170 (49.85) 171 (50.15)
Town of Little Rice (Oneida County) 27 (30.68) 61 (69.31)
Town of Nokomis (Oneida County) 209 (51.73) 195 (48.27)
Town of Rock Falls 13 (68.42) 6 (31.58)
Town of Skanawan 48 (37.80) 79 (62.20)
Town of Tomahawk 52 (35.62) 94 (64.38)
Town of Wilson 39 (41.49) 55 (58.51)
Data courtesy of the Lincoln County Clerk’s office and Oneida County