MMSD superintendent explains why they’re asking for a referendum during a pandemic

MADISON, Wis. — Asking taxpayers to invest more than $300 million to remodel schools is a tough sell, especially when buildings are empty and students are learning from home.

Madison voters are facing that question on their ballot this year. The referendum question asking for $317 million would renovate the district’s high schools and add a new elementary school.

Planning started before the pandemic, but district leaders say their polling shows the community still wants the improvements now. However, some groups like Blacks for Political and Social Action of Dane County say it’s “less than wise” to invest so much money when so much is up in the air.

We asked MMSD Superintendent Dr. Carlton Jenkins about the timing of the referendum, and why now is the time to make this request.

“We’re at a historical low point in terms of borrowing right now, so we can get the greatest amount of things done for less money,” said Dr. Jenkins.

If the referendum passes, construction to renovate Madison’s four main high schools and add an elementary school would wrap up in 2024.

The capital referendum would cost the average property owner about $140 per year for the next 22 years.