01STOCK_JANESVILLE_SCHOOLDISTRICT

JANESVILLE

Janesville School District voters might see a building maintenance referendum on the ballot in November 2020.

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At a Wednesday meeting of the Janesville School Board Finance Committee, Superintendent Steve Pophal and Chief Financial Officer Dan McCrea presented a draft timeline for a November 2020 referendum to cover an unspecified amount of maintenance to district buildings.

The need for a referendum has not been discussed by the full board, but the topic has come up during discussions over maintenance issues and other school needs, Pophal said in an interview after the meeting.

At a school board meeting in May, board member Kevin Murray warned the district might have to go to referendum to cover its maintenance needs. At issue then—and now—is a report from Unesco, a Madison-based management firm, that outlined needs ranging from replacement of aging boilers to asbestos abatement.

Of the $120.43 million in projects, an estimated $77.84 million worth of items are in the “alert” or “alarm” categories, according to the firm’s report.

For the past several years, the board has been whittling away at the projects, doing as many as it could afford each year.

The projects were funded either through the district’s capital improvement budget or through Act 32.

Act 32, which the Legislature passed in 2009, allowed school districts to exceed state-imposed revenue caps for projects that resulted in energy savings.

Revenue caps limit the amount of money districts can raise. If a district needs more money, a referendum is often the only option.

About $15 million in projects were completed using Act 32, committee Chairman Greg Ardrey said after the meeting.

But the state did away with Act 32, so that funding method is no longer available.

The scope or amount of the referendum has not been determined, and Ardrey and others want to gather data showing what the district already has done to care for its buildings.

Committee member Cathy Myers suggested focusing on projects that would improve energy efficiency and/or improve the student’s learning environment.

Committee member Jim Millard suggested safety improvements should be a part of the list, as well.

The school district’s administration is interviewing consultants to help guide the process. That individual or company will be presented for board approval at the first board meeting in December. Pophal said they were looking at consultants that didn’t have a vested interest in the outcome of the referendum.

According to the draft referendum timeline, December and January would be spent getting updated cost estimates, defining what would be covered, determining how much to ask for and getting feedback from stakeholders.

February and March would be focused on “community engagement,” including possible public comment sessions.

April through June would be focused on a community survey. The final board vote on a referendum resolution would be in August.

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