Hodag Pride: Information about the referendum
Recently the School District of Rhinelander’s Board of Education approved going to referendum in February 2013 to seek an increase in the levy for operational purposes. The school district would like to provide you with some general information about the referendum and how it may impact you.
Why should I care?
Healthy schools have a direct impact on the health and well-being of a community. Zachary Neal, sociologist at Michigan State University, recently co-wrote a study on how quality public schools benefit everyone, including those without school-aged children. “We found that having quality public schools makes people more satisfied with their community regardless of whether they had kids in the schools or not,” Neal said. He said this is likely due to public schools offering amenities to the entire community such as adult education courses, workout facilities, space for churches and other groups, and more.
Strong schools also mean a stronger business climate, which directly equates to more jobs, a better economy and a healthy community. Printpack and Advanced Barrier Extrusions (ABX) are two local manufacturers who are expanding in Rhinelander. Both of these businesses rely on an educated workforce to maintain their success.
Whether it be manufacturing, retail or medical, we rely on a competent workforce to serve our community. The School District of Rhinelander provides the foundation for our children to grow into successful, productive adults.
What will the referendum cost me?
Based on the current mill rate, homeowners will see an increase of $8.75 per month ($105 per year). The current school district mill rate is $9.24 per thousand, which includes $.63 for the current $1.5 million referendum. If the proposed referendum were to pass, this would add $1.05 per thousand to the current mill rate, for a total of $1.68 per thousand fair market value.
Neighboring school districts seem to be doing just fine.
Back in the 1992-93 school year, the board of education voted to under-levy the taxpayers $1 million. At that time, the board didn’t know that the state was going to set a revenue cap based on the 1992-93 budget. The revenue cap became the levy limit, causing the district to lose approximately $20 million in revenue for the past 20 years.
To offset this loss, the board and staff made budget cuts over the past 10 years totaling more than $11 million. Certified staff was decreased by 13 percent. Support staff was decreased by 47 percent. Administration was decreased 45 percent since 2002-03. Cuts continue to be made, but the costs of operations do not decrease. Enrollment has declined 12 percent since 2007-08, but the services to students and families have not decreased. In fact, the services the district provides continue to grow and have become more individualized.
Neighboring districts (including Antigo, Crandon, Lakeland Union High School, North Lakeland, Northland Pines and Three Lakes) average $11,091 per student. Rhinelander’s revenue limit per student is $9,202.
In 2011-12, Northland Pines and Three Lakes had an average expenditure of $13,834 per student. In this same time period, Rhinelander’s base expenditure per student was $9,152. Adding grant funds of $2,610, Rhinelander’s total expenditure per student was $11,762. Rhinelander is spending $2,072 less per student than neighboring school districts.
If enrollment is declining and staff has been cut, why do expenses continue to grow?
The district’s expenses directly relate to inflation. Since 2003, inflation has fluctuated. In 2011, inflation was 3.16 percent, with higher increases for food, gas and insurance costs. The rising costs of food, gas and insurance directly contribute to the district’s increased expenditures. As expenses continue to rise, the revenue cap set 20 years ago remains at $9,202 per student.
Why is the school district seeking a referendum of $4 million per year for the next three years?
The school board approved going to referendum for $4 million per year for three years as the board and staff anticipate deficits of almost $3 million in 2013-14, over $4 million in 2014-15, and more than $5 in 2015-16. This totals more than $12 million over the next three years. Detailed budget information is available on the district’s website at rhinelander.k12.wi.us.
What will happen if the referendum is not passed?
The school board approved reductions totaling more than $3 million for the 2013-14 school year.
Implementing these cuts will impact the core services that the district offers.
Specific items that will be affected include a reduction of more than 35 teaching positions, the elimination of SAGE, the elimination of the Northwoods Community Elementary School (NCES) and Northwoods Community Secondary School (NCSS) charter schools, the reduction or elimination of co-curriculars, advanced course offerings including AP classes and course electives.
These cuts will result in increased class sizes. Further cuts will need to be made in 2014-15 and 2015-16.
Until the formula for school funding is changed at the state level, Rhinelander and other districts showing high property values will continue to struggle with the revenue limit per student. Until the state funding formula is changed, the School District of Rhinelander will face annual budget shortfalls.
Detailed budget information is available on the district’s website at rhinelander.k12.wi.us. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Marta Kwiatkowski, director of business services, at (715) 365-5700, extension 5734; or Kim Swisher, community education coordinator, at (715) 365-9745.
Kim Swisher is also available via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.