Three-year, $3.25 million referendum gets thumbs up from school board
Spending request to appear on April 5 ballots
By Jalen Maki
Tomahawk Leader Editor
TOMAHAWK – The School District of Tomahawk Board of Education, during its meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 11, approved a pair of resolutions to place a three-year, $3.25 million non-recurring referendum on April 5 ballots.
In a release, the district said the referendum, if approved by voters, would have a property tax impact of $1.49 on every $1,000.00 of assessed property value in the school district. The owner of a home worth $100,000.00 would see a yearly tax impact of about $149.00, according to the release.
The referendum would expire at the end of the 2024-2025 school year.
The district said the referendum would enable the district to “address its most pressing financial needs and maintain critical programs and services for students,” adding that the April spending request would essentially replace the one that was approved by voters in 2017 and expired in June 2021.
The district said its financial needs are “largely the result of Wisconsin’s outdated school funding formula, which does not provide it with enough revenue to adequately fund its programs and services.”
“Although the district has experienced declining enrollment in recent years, its revenue has decreased faster than its expenses,” the district stated. “This is despite the fact that district leaders and the board have significantly reduced costs and engaged in sound financial management. At the same time, students’ needs have increased dramatically, especially in the areas of special education and mental health. The funding the district receives is insufficient to cover the expenses of state and federally mandated services. Additionally, costs for things like running school buses and heating buildings continue to rise.”
“While we are very proud of our financial discipline over the years, the district has made so many expense reductions that, as a board, we worry about harming our schools and students over the long term if this trend continues,” said board president Kay Kissinger Wolf. “We are pleased to move forward with a balanced proposal to our community in the form of a new referendum question.”
Kissinger Wolf added that the board believes the referendum is “necessary to maintain current programming and continue to provide residents with the high-quality school district they have come to expect.”
The board’s process of placing a referendum question on Spring Election ballots dates back to Oct. 2021. The board formed an ad hoc committee tasked with overseeing the planning process and hired two firms, one to assist the district with communication and another to ensure that legal requirements regarding the referendum resolution and ballot question language were met.
During the meeting, Deb Velleux, chair of the ad hoc committee, said the board planned to send out an information mailer to voters regarding the spending request. Communication with voters via social media and informational community meetings will also take place ahead of the Spring Election.
April will mark the district’s third attempt to pass a referendum in about a year and a half. Voters rejected four-year, $3.5 million referendum by 51 votes in Nov. 2020. A four-year, $3.25 million spending request failed by 33 votes in April 2021.
The district is providing information about the referendum on its website at www.tomahawk.k12.wi.us/district/referendum.cfm.