FAQs from Referendum

Frequently Asked Questions – November 3, 2020 referendum

1. Why now?

For several years, the District has faced an annual budget deficit because of legislatively determined revenue limits on school districts. Thankfully, with the support of the community’s voters, the District was granted an operational referendum for the day-to-day operation of the district. At the same time, a comprehensive facility study revealed critical building and  infrastructure needs at both elementary schools and maintenance needs at the middle/high school too. 

Two years ago the district welcomed over 90 community members to establish a plan for continuing the excellent education provided in the Wisconsin Heights School District. Facilities were identified as a top priority. 

The district is facing critical building maintenance needs, and therefore the Board of Education decided to place a capital referendum on the November 2020 ballot to seek voter approval to address the problems.

2. What are the facility options the Board of Education considered for elementary school needs? 

The Board of Education considered two facility options for the elementary schools. One option was to renovate and replace aging infrastructure and failing building systems at Black Earth and Mazomanie Elementary Schools that were identified in the facility study commissioned by the board. The projects would include renovating the kitchens, updating classroom fixtures and the electrical systems, and replacing the heating and ventilation systems. Also included in the needed renovations are a complete roof replacement at Black Earth Elementary and portions of the Mazomanie Elementary School roof also need significant maintenance.  The estimated cost for this work would be $21 million. These renovations would not include updating the buildings to reflect current instructional best practices such as flexible learning spaces and enhanced technology capabilities. The second option would be to build an elementary addition at the middle/high school site at an estimated cost of $22 million. This addition would result in operational efficiencies and allow for enhanced instructional opportunities.

 Options considered: 

Repair Existing Elementary Schools

Build New Elementary Wing

$21 Million

Does not modernize schools

Minimal operational savings

$22 Million

Modern learning environment

Reduces to one campus building for long-term operational savings

3. If the elementary addition is approved what will happen to the two elementary buildings?

The district would work with the community and civic leaders in Black Earth and Mazomanie to identify new uses for the buildings and find buyers for them. Revenue from the sale of the buildings would be used to pay down the district debt incurred by a capital referendum. 

4. If the elementary addition is approved, what would be done to ensure the safety of students, staff, and parents entering and leaving the campus from Highway 14?

District officials are working with a transportation and traffic engineering firm to develop a safe traffic flow pattern for cars and busses.

During the development of the one-campus solution, community members asked about the safety of the campus. We took that seriously and hired an engineering firm to do a traffic study. It was determined that, due to the changes to Highway 14 in 2014 and changes the entrance to school made a few years ago, the main entrance is safe. The traffic study provides recommendations about on-site traffic flow and since most of that is in the District’s control, the recommendations will become part of the plans for the site.

The traffic evaluation was presented to the Board of Education on September 14, 2020.

5. How would a central campus benefit the district?

A central campus would eliminate the need for staff to travel among various buildings and increase their time with students. Families with multiple children in the district would be able to transport their students to a single site rather than shuttling them to different locations. School events such as musical programs or athletic competitions would be held at a single site. The district would also realize operational efficiencies with just one building to heat, light, and maintain.

6. What other facility projects is the Board of Education considering?

The facility study identified significant needs in the middle/high school building including replacing portions of the roof, replacing outdated heating, ventilating and mechanical systems, providing cooling in areas that do not have it, and updating restrooms to make them fully accessible under the ADA act. The cost of these projects is estimated at up to $5 million. 

7. What is the difference between an operating and a capital referendum?

An operating referendum asks permission from voters for the district to exceed the state-imposed revenue cap to generate funds for operating purposes. Operating referendums may be one-time (non-recurring) or recurring (annually for a set dollar amount.) A capital referendum is a one-time referendum that asks voters for permission to add to the district debt in order to pay for facility projects such as for the new elementary wing and the MS/HS repairs.

8. Where can I get more information about the facility planning process?

More information about the facility study and the community survey can be found at the district’s website, https://wisconsinheightssdwi.sites.thrillshare.com/