A survey distributed Friday by the Janesville School District asks residents how they feel about the possibility of spending up to $59 million on referendum projects.
The survey asks residents about their comfort level with a $37 million operational referendum and a $22.5 million capital referendum. The totals are based on an estimated student population of 9,231.
The referendum projects are necessary, according to the survey, because the district has a lower revenue limit than many area school districts based on its declining enrollment.
Each school district in Wisconsin has a revenue limit determined by the state budget. This number caps the amount of money a district can receive through state aid and local property taxes.
The survey asks residents to rank several priorities, including safety/security, performing arts, comparable athletic facilities, controlling tax impact, controlling spending, Advanced Placement course opportunities and career exploration for students.
The survey process is part of the district’s $30,000 contract with the Donovan Group, a Milwaukee-based school communications company. The district spent $8,300 to print and mail the survey.
The survey was sent to more than 32,000 households using the U.S. Postal Service’s every day direct-mail method, which is cost-effective but inexact, said Dan McCrea, the district’s chief financial officer.
“EDDM is a cost-effective service offered by the USPS, albeit there are challenges with overcast using a ZIP code distribution,” McCrea said in a statement to The Gazette. “In other words, there might be some households receiving the survey who do not reside in the School District of Janesville.”
Patrick Gasper, the district’s public information officer, said officials don’t know how many families outside the district received the survey because it is distributed by mail carriers, who deliver it to every household on their routes.
Each Janesville School District student brings $9,700 into the district, which is lower than most area districts and the state and county average, both of which are more than $10,000 per student.
“Based on new forecasting, the district will see a significant budget deficit starting next year, despite work to trim costs, if efforts are not made to address it,” the survey reads. “In short, the district’s revenue limit is falling faster and more significantly than its ability to realize cost savings as a result of having fewer students.”
An approved operational referendum would allow the district to exceed its revenue limits.
If the operational referendum fails, cuts will be made to programs and student services, according to the survey.
The district’s tax rate was $8.48 per $1,000 of property value for the 2019-20 school year. That number is lower than other area districts, including Clinton, Milton, Edgerton, Beloit, Evansville and Parkview.
The $37 million operational referendum would cost taxpayers $40 more in school-related taxes per $100,000 of equalized property value every year for four years. A family with a $100,000 house would pay $160 total by the end of the 2024-25 school year.
That referendum would address “urgent issues” such as maintaining programs and services, staff salaries and other costs associated with daily operations. The budget would be balanced; “limited” cuts would be made, and school-related taxes would stay below the state average, according to the survey.
The survey also indicates that the school board is considering a $22.5 million capital referendum to replace outdated mechanical equipment and boilers and add security features. If voters approve it, the measure would result in a $5 increase per $100,000 of equalized property value every year for four years.
The survey will close July 31.