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Superintendents Share Differing Views On Walker’s Low-Revenue School Proposal

Bill Would Allow Some Districts To Raise Taxes Without Ballot Referendum

Children leaving school
Amy Sancetta/AP Photo

School superintendents offered differing views Thursday about Gov. Scott Walker’s plan to allow low-spending districts to raise taxes to support schools without voter approval.

Under the proposal —which is sponsored in the Assembly by Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, and the Senate by Sen. Howard Marklein, R-Spring Green — school districts that spend less than $9,400 per student would be able to raise property taxes without first asking voters’ permission.

Tonya Olson, superintendent for the Waupun Area School District, testified at Thursday’s public hearing on the plan. She said the additional funds are sorely needed in her district.

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“The low-revenue ceiling increase would mean an additional $200,000 for our budget next year, which is half of our projected deficit this year,” she said.

Not every district would qualify for the funding bump, however. School districts that have asked voters in the past three years to raise taxes and have failed wouldn’t be able to raise their limit. They would be required to stay at current funding levels until three years have passed since their last failed referendum.

That’s the case with the Bonduel School District in northeastern Wisconsin, which saw two failed ballot referendums in 2017.

“So basically, we are getting punished for doing our job more efficiently and better than districts that spend $10,000, $11,000 a year per student,” said Patrick Rau, district administrator for Bonduel.

The proposal would also increase aid for qualifying rural districts in the state.

Walker has called on lawmakers to quickly pass the bill.