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Brodhead approves new plan on referendum

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GINA R. HEINE
February 20, 2010
— Taxpayers in the Brodhead School District will see the tax rate drop next year if voters approve a second referendum on April 6.

The board on Friday night unanimously approved a three-year, $1.76 million referendum that includes restructuring the district’s current debt over five years and financing a new high school roof over 10 years.


That compares to the four-year, $3.59 million referendum that voters rejected by 193 votes on Tuesday. The failed referendum included the same debt refinancing, but would have paid for the new roof in the first two years.


“This is huge,” board President Peggy Olsen said after the meeting. “I just hope we’ve done something to make people happier. And that the $170 over three years is worth it for these kids.”


It was a whirlwind week for the district. After the referendum failed Tuesday, administrators and board members worked on new options, then had a more than four hour special meeting Thursday to listen to residents before working on the new referendum in an hour-long special meeting Friday night.


The board meets again Monday night in its regular meeting, and members will reconsider its list of cuts if the referendum fails and discuss how to better inform the public.


Board member Jim Wahl pointed out the irony that board members haven’t even discussed the failed referendum, yet they have already approved a second one.


The quick turnaround was needed to meet Friday’s midnight deadline to get the referendum on the April ballot.


April referendum


The cumulative tax increase on a $100,000 home will be $170 over three years under the new referendum. In the first year, the tax rate will drop from $8.45 this year to $8.27 per $1,000 of equalized property value.


That is possible because the teachers union and administrators have agreed to a one-year pay freeze, and the financing of the roof has been extended to 10 years.


In 2011-12, the same homeowner will see a tax rate of $9.52 followed by a rate of $10.16 in 2012-13.


The failed referendum included a 3.9 percent total package increase for the teachers union, but the union verbally agreed Thursday to open the contract to negotiate a pay freeze for next year. Administrators also agreed to a pay freeze next year. The result is $85,000 in savings.


The district is budgeting $700,000 for the new roof over 10 years, though it could be lower after it is put out for bids.


Federal stimulus money might also provide a no-interest loan.


The board considered three other options that included restructuring the district debt over 10 years and having a four-year referendum.


Friday afternoon was the deadline for students to apply for open enrollment. As of 1:30 p.m. Friday, Superintendent Chuck Deery said the district had 305 applications, which is not the total number of students.


Students can apply to more than one school, so the actual number of students applying to leave is probably 140 to 150, he said.


If those students do leave, that’s another $952,000 to $1.02 million loss in state aid.


Board members have heard earfuls about their decision to put sports and extracurricular activities on a list of cuts if the first referendum failed. Based on comments Thursday, most of the students have applied to leave because of the potential cut in sports.


To keep the athletes, and subsequently the state aid, in the district, board members generally agreed Friday night to remove sports and extracurriculars from the cut list. Official action will be taken Monday night.


“It doesn’t make much sense to send money out the door,” Olsen said.


That move was made easier by the wage freezes and roof financing because it provides more room in the budget, she said.


In her nine years on the board, Olsen said Thursday night brought the most residents she had seen at any meeting. The suggestions they brought will help board members as they start Monday night trying to find better ways to share information with the public.


More than 50 people attended Friday’s meeting while at least 250 people showed up Thursday when dozens of residents spoke.


Board member Mike Krupke said Thursday’s meeting “started to establish a healthy exchange with the public.”


“And I think hopefully we can cultivate that,” he said. “I think (Thursday) night was, for lack of a better term, a groundbreaking type of thing where we’re moving forward and Brodhead wants to get behind it, so let’s make something happen.”


IF YOU GO


The Brodhead School Board will meet at 7 p.m. Monday in the district office boardroom for its regular monthly meeting. On the agenda is post-referendum discussion and planning. Board members will revise the list of possible cuts and plan more ways to communicate about the new referendum to the public.



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