Williams Bay rejects schools referendum

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Kevin Hoffman
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
— Voters aren’t ready to give the Williams Bay schools more money, and District Administrator Fred Vorlop said the impact might be felt soon.

About two-thirds of voters Tuesday were against the school referendum to allow the district to exceed the state revenue cap. Vorlop said the district would be financially stable this year, but beginning in 2011 the board will begin examining ways to slash spending.

Vorlop said some small cuts, such as utilities expenditures, could be considered before the new year.

“I would expect over the next several months the board will be reviewing its financial position, its programs and services, and looking for ways to reduce expenditures,” Vorlop said. “We’ll want to minimize the loss of educational opportunities, but that will be difficult given the size of the deficit.”

The district passed a referendum in 2003 and estimated it would need another four years later. Greater enrollment and staff cuts helped keep the budget manageable until now.

Tuesday’s referendum asked approval for $498,000 per year in both 2010-11 and 2011-12. It would then increase to $890,000 in 2012-13 and each year after that.

Williams Bay’s school tax would have initially increased to $6.89 per $1,000 of assessed property value, which is well short of the state average of $9.15.

During April’s election, six districts across Wisconsin sought recurring cap increases similar to Williams Bay. Each of them failed.

Vorlop previously said about a quarter of its 50 teachers might be cut within five years if voters don’t approve the measure. The district has close to a $600,000 deficit, he added, and about $330,000 came in the last year after federal stimulus money stopped.

David Weber, co-chair of the referendum committee and former school board president, said he worried the layoffs would impact instruction. Williams Bay typically finishes above the state average on ACT scores and graduation rates.

The district held four public forums on the issue, and Vorlop said many voters personally evaluated the school’s budget and believed it could weather the storm.

Vorlop said it’s too early to tell if they’ll try to bring back the referendum in the near future.

Last updated: 2:58 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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