Janesville60.1°

Opposition light for referendum

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STANLEY B. MILAM
March 31, 2012
— No organized opposition has surfaced to fight a referendum allowing the Whitewater Unified School District to exceed revenue limits by $600,000 each year for three years.

Supporters of the additional spending are out in force with an organized group called Whitewater YES. The group has been active at hearings and public events explaining how the additional money will be spent and, just as importantly, what group members believe will happen if the additional spending is not approved.


"A reasonable result of not approving the referendum would be smaller K-3 classes," said Ron Binning, a co-chairman of Whitewater YES. "Right now we have 16 to 20 students in those classes.


"Without the additional spending, we could see those class sizes jump to 25 to 27 students per class," Binning said. "We believe that effective learning happens in smaller classes."


Other budget areas of concern, Binning said, are fifth-grade band, special education, technology and maintenance.


"We might have to cut the budget for window repair and replacement for example," he said. "That would result in a short-term savings, but in the long run we will see utility costs keep rising because of the inefficient windows."


Those are some of the areas the increased spending would go toward, Binning said.


State support for school districts has been altered and there will be greater pressure on property taxpayers, Binning noted.


"This request in Whitewater is not an isolated event," Binning said. "There are 28 or so other districts around the state with similar referendums on the spring ballot. There could be as many as 90 districts with similar requests in November."


Whitewater has issues that forced a look at additional spending, Binning said.


"We don't have declining enrollment, but it's not going up—it's flat," he said. "However, our costs keep going up. We need to provide our students with the best education we can. We believe that this additional spending will allow us to do that."


The additional spending would result in additional property taxes of $43 on a property valued at $100,000, Binning said.


"We understand that $43 makes a difference to someone who is unemployed, but we looked at the most cost-efficient way to maintain a quality education for our students," he said.


The last two school district referendums have been successful. A four-year plan to exceed spending caps was passed in 2006. In 2010, district voters approved a refinancing plan to cut the interest rate from 5 percent to 3 percent.


REFERENDUM WORDING

The wording of the Whitewater School District referendum question that will appear on the April 3 ballot is :


"Shall the Whitewater Unified School District, Jefferson, Rock and Walworth Counties, Wisconsin, for the 2012-2013 school year through the 2014-2015 school year be authorized to exceed the revenue limit specified in Section 121.91, Wisconsin Statutes, by $600,000 a year, for non-recurring purposes consisting of maintaining K-3 class sizes; maintaining instructional and co-curricular programs; replacing aging technology and maintaining facilities?"



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