A flier supporting the Milton School District’s $59.9 million referendum wound up in some district residents’ mailboxes, but it does not violate state law, a State Ethics Commission official said Friday.
Daniel Carlton, an administrator for the commission, said advertisements supporting or opposing election issues do not need to identify who paid for the ads—unlike literature backing particular candidates, which does require that information.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court changed the requirements in 2015.
The Gazette reached out to Carlton on Friday after some district residents received fliers supporting the referendum in the mail.
The flier encourages voters to vote “yes” for the district’s $59.9 million facilities referendum Tuesday. It features a heading that reads “Milton’s schools are outdated and overcrowded” and an image of a one-room schoolhouse and children in antiquated clothing.
It does not say who paid for or mailed the fliers, raising concerns among some residents that it violated campaign finance law.
The identity of the flier’s author remained unclear at press time Friday.
Residents who received the flier and alerted The Gazette have Edgerton addresses but live in the Milton School District.
The ethics commission recommends that people who mail issue-based election materials identify who paid for them to avoid confusion or complaints, Carlton said.
Under state law, school districts cannot distribute literature telling voters to vote one way or another on a referendum. Districts can send out only informational materials, Carlton said.
Individuals, including school board members, can distribute advertisements or literature on issues because those are protected freedoms of speech, Carlton said.
Referendum com‑ mittees that raise at least $10,000 in a calendar year must register with the state and identify their “major purpose,” but no such group currently exists in Milton.
Voters will decide Tuesday whether to allow the district to borrow $59.9 million for additions and renovations to nearly every school; additions to the high school’s technical education areas, STEM classrooms and gymnasium; a new high school pool; and district maintenance.
Northside Intermediate School is the only school that will not see any construction under the proposal.
If approved, the referendum will cost district taxpayers $164 per year—$13.67 per month—per $100,000 of property value, raising the school tax rate $1.64.
Two district facility referendums have failed since 2016. The issue has become a flashpoint in the community, and many residents have formed strong opinions for and against the referendums and school district officials.
John and Lindsay Wasson said Friday they believe school district issues have divided the community.
The Wassons said everyone they have talked to about the referendum has told them to vote against it.
The Wassons’ two children attend district schools. Lindsay said the students need better facilities, but she does not want to see her rent raised because property taxes increase.
She said she and her husband have a lot to think about before Tuesday.
A Milton School District teacher who asked not to be named said the divisiveness has taken a toll on school staff. Arguments between adults do not set good examples for the kids, the teacher said.
Virgina Vertz said she believes the community can mend itself after recent contentious years.
Vertz said she keeps to herself and does not get involved in arguments about district issues. The schools, particularly the high school, need upgrades, she said.