Verona School District hopes to address community, student growth in April referendum
The Verona School District is proposing one of the largest single referendums in state history. It plans to build a new high school, renovate the existing high school and middle school, construct a swimming pool and athletic field and fund operational expenses.
Superintendent Dean Gorrell says it’s time to address growth concerns.
“One of our elementary schools is way above capacity at almost 100, actually more than 100 kids,” Gorrell said.
The school district recently conducted a housing and enrollment study, which shows that 4,500 new housing units and 1,500 new students will emerge in Verona by 2030.
“The growth needs are there,” Gorrell said.
The district wants to expand on its education platform through three referendums that will be voted on April 4, 2017. If all three pass, the project would cost around $180 million.
“This would be an increase (on taxes), for sure. We want to be very upfront about that,” Gorrell said.
For those who have reservations, there is some relief. The closure of the Epic TIF district allows Verona to collect taxes from the health software company, making it the perfect time for the school district to act on their growth needs.
“In the first year of that, local property taxes go way down because state aid is always a year behind, so we’re still going to get the same amount of state aid as we did last year, but our local portion is going to go way down,” Gorrell said.
If the first referendum question passes about constructing a new high school and making renovations to existing schools, taxes would go up an estimated $0.42 per $1,000 of fair market property value starting in fall of 2017. If the second question passes to construct a new swimming pool and athletic fields at the new high school, taxes would increase an additional $0.37 per $1,000 of fair market property value starting in 2017. If the third question passes to fund operational expenses, taxes would increase an additional $0.58 per $1,000 of fair market property value starting in Fall 2020.
Residents like Gary Reuters say they are not opposed to the increase.
“I think the children are our future and our foundation, and we should do what it takes to make things better for them,” said Reuter.
Gorrell says he knows there is a chance the referendum will fail.
“If it doesn’t pass, we anticipate there would be a significant drop in property taxes for the Verona Area School District taxpayers,” Gorrell said.
If that’s the case, the district will look at other options to up-size and possibly introduce a modified referendum next year.
“Whether we address them now or in the future, that’s what the voters will ultimately decide on,” Gorrell said.
The district is holding several referendum information presentations throughout the month. They will be held on Monday, March 13 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the Fitchburg Library; Tuesday, March 14 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at Badger Ridge Middle School and March 21 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. for Spanish-speaking families at Glacier Edge Middle School.
Gorrell is also available to make in-person presentations at homes or businesses. To schedule a meeting, call (608) 845-4337.
You can find more information at Verona’s website.
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