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Possible referendum costs shared in Edgerton

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NEIL W. JOHNSON
February 15, 2012
— The Edgerton School District has released details on $9.2 million in spending options linked to a possible referendum that district residents could see on the ballot this fall.

The school board this week approved cost estimates for $4.8 million in facility maintenance, up to $2.5 million in technology upgrades and a plan to refinance $2.9 million in district debt linked to the Wisconsin Retirement System—all of which the district has identified as spending options in a possible referendum to exceed district levy limits.


District officials and an ad-hoc panel of citizens are weighing how to present those possible costs in a community survey that will be mailed to residents March 8.


The survey is intended to probe the community for its appetite for a referendum that could have a significant long-term tax impact for residents.


The district's plan for building repairs alone could cost an average taxpayer $45 a year over 15 years, according to estimates in a draft survey. All of the spending options for the referendum combined could have a total tax impact for the average taxpayer of $130 a year over a 15 to 20 years, according to the survey.


The district and the board still have not determined what items the referendum could include or what its total cost could be.


Superintendent Dennis Pauli said the district will use results of the survey in discussions over what spending options could be placed on the referendum and ultimately in a decision by the board on whether to put the referendum on the ballot in the fall.


The board could approve a final draft of the survey Feb. 27.


Here's a glimpse of spending options that the district survey will highlight.


Building repairs

Pauli has said the district is facing a wave of deferred building repairs, in part because of district cuts to building maintenance in the last five years.


The district hired construction consultant Apex Building Consultants last year for a facility needs analysis. The company identified the following as big-ticket projects that will be necessary in the short term:


-- $3.3 million to replace and repair aging roofs at district schools


-- $1 million to replace windows and repair walls at district schools.


Costs for potential work could be spread out over 15 years at a cost of about $45 a year for a taxpayer with a $100,000 home, according to district estimates.


Pension debt

The district has $2.9 million in pension debt linked to the Wisconsin Retirement System. The debt has grown since school districts statewide bought into the statewide retirement system in the 1980s.


District officials have said that refinancing through a referendum would shift debt repayments outside the district levy cap and allow the district to pay off debt at a lower interest rate. That could free up cash for district operations.


Refinancing the full $2.9 million debt would cost taxpayers with a $100,000 home $21 to $35 annually depending on whether the district split repayments over 10 or 15 years, according to district estimates.


Technology upgrades

A review of district technology by district consultant Skyward IT Services showed that 95 percent of district computers are seven to nine years old and no longer covered under warranty.


The assessment also showed the district's telephone system and its computer network and Internet infrastructure is 12 years old and has "limited capabilities" compared to more modern systems.


A district committee is still completing a needs assessment, but the district estimates it would cost $1.5 million to install a wireless computer network and replace the phone system along with its older computers.


Additional technology upgrades could cost another $1 million.


For a taxpayer with a $100,000 home, that could mean a cost on a referendum ranging from $28 to $50 annually, according to district estimates.



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