NORTH CRAWFORD - On the November 8 General Election ballot, voters in the North Crawford School District will be asked to vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on two referendums. Those referendums concern ongoing revenue needs for the district to maintain programs and services, and needed capital improvements to facilities and grounds.
According to North Crawford Superintendent Brandon Munson, the annual impact of passage of the referendums to a district property taxpayer for a property with an assessed value of $100,000, is $66 per year for the operating referendum, and $140 per year for the capital bonding referendum.
The school district will host three Community Referendum Meetings. The meetings will allow the district to provide additional details and information regarding the referendum, and to answer any questions the public may have.
The dates of those meetings are September 14, October 5, and October 26. All three meetings will be held in the North Crawford Performance Center, and are scheduled to run from 6 to 7:30 p.m.
“Our goal as a district is to educate as many of our voters as possible on the need for the referendum,” Munson said. “When our residents go to the polls on November 8, I hope the district has done everything we can to support people making an informed vote. I hope many of our residents take advantage of these opportunities to hear directly from the school district.”
A few points
Munson has a few points that he hopes district residents will consider.
“First, I hope our communities understand that our building opened up 31 years ago, with the addition opening five years later,” Munson said.” Like any residential or commercial building, after a period of time you’re forced to address building and maintenance issues.”
Munson went on to explain that “due to routine and preventative maintenance, the district has been able to extend the life of many of the components of the building that would have otherwise failed several years ago.” He said that the district is now at a point where the preventative maintenance is costing too much money each year.
“You get to a point where you have to consider replacement, and that’s where we’re at with several of the larger components of the building,” Munson said.
Munson added, “we have made many upgrades and renovations over the years using existing district budget dollars. The projects we’re asking our communities to support are too large in scope for us to be able to accomplish within the confines of our district’s budget.”
Regarding the operational question, Munson says he recognizes the complexity of the question, and how it will appear on the ballot.
“When we began to consider an operational question, there were several factors that we considered,” Munson said. “First, we wanted to make sure we were asking our taxpayers to approve an amount that would set the district up for long-term financial stability. The last thing we want to do is come back to the taxpayers and ask for more money in a few years.”
He explained that the district has been working with Baird Financial to assist in the district’s budget and financial forecasting.
“I feel comfortable with the $900,000 that we have arrived at. I believe it gives us the financial stability the district needs, but because we are phasing the amount in over a four year period, will lessen the tax burden on our residents,” Munson said. “We’re not necessarily looking at adding a bunch of new staff and new programs to the district. We are simply asking for the additional revenue to be able to remain regionally competitive with staff salary and benefits, to have updated technology available to staff and students, offer rigorous and relevant curriculum for student learning, to continue, being able to update our transportation fleet so students and staff have reliable transportation to and from school, and for the general upkeep and immediate and deferred maintenance needs of the district.”
Munson said that the Wisconsin State Legislature has not been very helpful to public school districts over the last two years. He pointed out that school districts have not received any new operating revenue from the state with which to budget, while at the same time operational expenses continue to increase at historical rates.
“Balancing our district budget has been very difficult the last several years as it is. Add to those challenges the fact that we have not received any additional revenue from the state, and the historical increase in the cost of operating the district, it’s no wonder so many districts across the state have had to turn to taxpayers to approve operating referendums,” Munson explained. “In essence, we have balanced our budget the last two years on the back of our federal COVID funding. The inherent problem with that is that is a funding cliff, and when we get to that cliff, and the federal stimulus money is spent, where does the revenue come from?”
Munson said the district is in a unique position in that it has an aging facility, while at the same time having a need to meet the operational demands of the district with limited revenue.
The first question on the ballot will ask voters to approve an operational referendum in the amount of $900,000 for recurring purposes. To minimize the tax impact, the district will phase this in over a four year period. The additional revenue will be used to maintain staff salary and benefits, technology, transportation, and general maintenance and building operations.
A copy of the ballot question is below.
Question Number I: Shall the North Crawford School District, Crawford, Richland and Vernon Counties, Wisconsin be authorized to exceed the revenue limit specified in Section 121.91, Wisconsin Statutes, by $300,000 for the 2022-2023 school year; by an additional $250,000 (for a total of $550,000) for the 2023-2024 school year; by an additional $200,000 (for a total of $750,000) for the 2024-2025 school year; and by an additional $150,000 (for a total of $900,000) for the 2025-2026 school year and thereafter, for recurring purposes consisting of operational expenses?
The second question on the ballot will ask voters to approve bonds in the amount of $4.5 million for the district to perform capital improvement projects on the facility and grounds.
Priority projects include a complete replacement of the building’s roof, the upper wall system, all exterior windows, and restroom renovations to meet state and federal codes and laws.
Other potential projects include parking lot pavement replacement, a childcare facility, new flooring, storage solutions, agriculture lab upgrades, and other building and grounds improvements.
A copy of the ballot question is below.
Question Number II: Shall the North Crawford School District, Crawford, Richland and Vernon Counties, Wisconsin be authorized to issue pursuant to Chapter 67 of the Wisconsin Statutes, general obligation bonds in an amount not to exceed $4,500,000 for the public purpose of paying the cost of a school facility improvement project at the school building and site consisting of: capital maintenance, building infrastructure and site improvements, including roof and window replacement; renovations and facility updates, including Americans with Disabilities Act improvements and upgrades to instructional space; and acquisition of furnishings, fixtures and equipment?Superintendent Brandon Munson contributed to this story.