BOSCOBEL - In the coming weeks, Boscobel Area School District will launch an effort to measure public support for a referendum to fund consolidation and improvements to district facilities.
At its November 14 meeting, the board approved the final draft of a seven-page survey that presents several different options for taxpayers in the district—ranging from a conservative $10.9 million budget to close the Rock School and expand upper grade classrooms in the current Middle-High School building, to a $31 million proposal that includes $9.7 million for a reconfigured gymnasium, as well as $13.5 for various upgrades and changes to the district’s physical infrastructure.
“This truly is presenting the information that we’ve gathered, and ultimately letting the community decide what’s important, and what they’re willing to support,” reported Molly Ryan, a consultant with the firm Plunkett Raysich Architects (PRA), a firm with offices in Madison and Milwaukee that’s been hired to assist with the project.
“The survey has about seven buckets and shows costs for each one, allowing your district and community to prioritize those items,” Ryan said.
These “buckets” include:
• Grade 4-5 addition at middle-high school and closing the Rock school building ($10.9 million estimate)
• Gym addition at middle-high school to ease overcrowding ($9.7 million estimate)
• Career and technical education center ($2.7 million estimate)
• Major building updates to roof, ceilings, exhaust, etc. ($2.0 million estimate)
• Close Annex Building and expand middle-high to accommodate district offices ($3.1 million estimate)
• Elementary school updates of doors, bathrooms, etc., including ADA updates ($1.4 million estimate)
• Middle-high school updates for same ($4.3 million estimate)
The survey also queries residents about their overall opinion of success and school pride.
Referenda on the rise
Like school districts across the state, Boscobel’s faces shrinking state aid at a time of rampant inflation and increased student needs, as well as aging infrastructure.
Much like the state’s municipalities, school districts face statutory restrictions on both spending and tax rates at the local level. As a result, record numbers of districts across the state are making the case for real estate tax increases directly to voters—with increasing success, according to the independent non-profit research organization, Wisconsin Policy Forum (WPF).
Since 2002, the Forum reports, Wisconsin’s growth in per-pupil spending ranked forty-eighth in the nation, and in the most recent budget, school spending limits were frozen altogether, even though the state enjoys a record budget surplus.
Hence, in the last two elections, according to the WPF, a record-number of schools asked local voters to voluntarily increase the tax levy. Local districts approved 133 referenda in 2022, second only to the 140 approved in 2018.
Boscobel’s rate of taxation, or mill rate (the rate of tax for every $1,000 of real estate value), stands below the state average and is second lowest of the schools in its athletic conference, according to the district.
With a current mill rate of $7.30, then, the school portion of the property tax on a $100,000 house in the jurisdiction would amount to $730.00. The various proposal in the referendum would add anywhere between $130 and $355 to that annual bill.
The district encourages everyone to fill out a survey and will deliver them both electronically (at www.Feedback2000.com) or by mail. The district will also host several “Community Conversations” events to solicit feedback in person. These will take place on December 7 (virtually), 12, and 14, at 6 p.m. at the Middle-High School. Surveys are due by December 23.
For more information, the public is invited to call administrator Lisa Wallin-Kapinus at 608-375-4164.
Covid funds discussed
In other business, the board took up the question of leftover Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding that resulted from improvement projects that came in under budget.
Nate Copsey, Director of Facilities and Grounds, reported that various projects, including HVAC and bathroom upgrades and floor replacement, came in underbudget by about $560,000, and proposed rolling that funding into continued upgrades, including a maintenance storage shed to ease overcrowding of Facilities and Grounds equipment.
The board voted to table that discussion until next month, in part to receive feedback from the public on priorities for spending via the referendum process.
The board also heard from Administrator Wallin-Kapinus who provided an overview of “first reading” changes to the official district policies, which included, notably, language governing the collection of video surveillance, as well as formal policies for those who wish to object to media materials in the school library.The board will take up these changes at its next meeting, which is scheduled for Wednesday, December 21, to avoid conflict with various after-school events.