Republican lawmaker introduces legislation to limit school referendums

Republican lawmaker introduces legislation to limit school referendums

On Tuesday’s spring election, voters across the state passed several school district referendums. With the growing popularity for these referendums, some state lawmakers want the process to change going forward, and drafted six bills to rein them in.

Sen. Duey Stroebel, R-Saukville, drafted five of the six bills, and said voters may not understand how much these referendums can affect real estate tax.

“There’s been a lot of costs added on to our real estate taxes but yet on a statewide basis, they still haven’t increased,” Stroebel said. “That money’s coming from someplace and it’s coming from everyone to continue to buy down those real estate taxes to ensure those taxes aren’t going up.”

Each bill contains a change to the current system, offering new measures. Some of them include preventing districts from asking voters to raise taxes permanently, require school boards to vote on seeking referendums at regular meetings and vote only on referendums that issue debt at annual meetings. Other measures would require school boards to include the cost of debt and interest in what’s being presented to voters. One would also force referendums to only appear on certain ballots.

“We want the greatest participation possible. (We) want broad community input and right now we’re not always seeing that. One of the bills also say let’s have referendums in the spring and fall general elections,” Stroebel said.

Local districts who’s referendums passed, like Mt. Horeb and Verona, are able to celebrate for now, but fear these bills could hinder anymore projects down the road.

“If that’s indeed what’s being proposed I guess I’d really have great pause with that because why are we penalizing school districts and various organizations from being good stewards of the local taxpayers dollars. Who’s to benefit there but the state, what about the people on the front lines doing the heavy lifting,” said Dr. Steve Salerno, superintendent for Mt. Horeb School District.

Salerno said it’s hard enough to get money from the state, so turning to voters is the way they can afford improvements.

“Since the imposed revenue caps on our schools, it’s becoming increasingly harder for us to go about conducting our important business,” Salerno said.

For now, he said he’s just happy to see voters supporting the school’s mission for better education.

“We’re just blessed and fortunate to have a community that continues to roll up their sleeves and work shoulder to shoulder with us,” Salerno said.