Community Conversations School Referendum Forum | WisCommunity

Community Conversations School Referendum Forum

January 13, 2024 - 12:09pm

Menomonie School Referendum Forum

Forum held ad Menomonie Public Library on Saturday January 13, 2024. Note that the live stream has some serious audio issues --- The video has been replaced with one where the audio is functional, but approximately the first 16 minutes of the meeting are missing.

The slides from the presentation are attached below.

This is a summary by Lorene Vedder of Community Conversations:

“Shall the School District of the Menomonie Area, Dunn and St. Croix Counties, Wisconsin, be authorized to exceed the revenue limit specified in Section 121.91, Wisconsin Statutes, by $4,200,000 beginning with the 2024-2025 school year, for recurring purposes consisting of operating expenses.”

Mission Statement:  “The School District of the Menomonie Area, by embracing the unique needs and using the strengths of our diverse community, is dedicated to preparing ALL students to become lifelong learners, caring individuals, and responsible citizens.”

Our school district has 3290 students in 4K to 12th grade.  43% are economically disadvantaged.  17.3% require special education.  4.5% are English language learners.  We have 255 teachers, of whom 80% have Master’s degrees, 69 para educators that work with special needs students, and 103 support staff.  The unique opportunities offered by our school district are:

  1. UW Stout & CVTC dual credits
  2. Career-track programs
  3. Personalized academic and behavioral intervention
  4. Trusted staff program - for needs of students
  5. AIM - art throughout curriculum
  6. School meals - locally sourced foods, made from scratch and done in house
  7. Universal access to school meals - there is an “angel fund” to pay off lunch debt so that every student gets to eat.
  8. Special programs - science olympiad, theater, music, academic decathlon

The mandate for our public schools is they must serve every student in the district.

Our school has a $65 million budget, of that $40 million is the operational budget.  To be financially responsible, the administration refinances and pays down long term debt.  There is a 30 year plan in the future for needed upgrades for items such as a new boiler and roof repair.  The administrators work to maximize additional student aid and grant dollars.

School funding in Wisconsin is controlled by state law.  Most money comes from local property taxes and income tax dollars from the state.  Other funding comes from Federal aid and state categorical funding as in special education.  As a result of all school district spending being frozen in place across the districts in 1994, the School District of the Menomonie Area is well below the average for revenues for our state school districts.  Pandemic aide from the federal government has made up for the recent shortfall in funding but that funding will not be available in the school year 2024-5.

Since the 1970’s, the Menomonie Area Schools (SDMA) have not had any recurring operation referendums.  There was a Capital Referendum in 2015 that was for improvements in some of the school’s buildings.  Capital Referendums are paid off over time.  A Recurring Operating Referendum is a step up in property tax assessment that can continue to stay up at this level in the future.  State funding for most public schools has not been sufficient and it is expected that 90% of our school districts across our state will have asked for an Operating Referendum by 2024 to have adequate funding.

As we look at inflation, the per student revenues across Wisconsin are lagging what they had been in 2009 related to Act 10 and an inadequate increase of school funding to make up for the short fall.  School choice also effects the funding of our schools.  In 2023-4 these vouchers took $722,281 out of SDMA funds.

The question was asked, “Why aren’t we using the Wisconsin State Budget Surplus to fund our schools adequately?”  Abe Smith answered that there was a 6 month budget process with the Legislature, Governor, and Educational Groups that negotiated only a modest increase of school funding.  None of our school district’s Wisconsin State Legislators - Senators and Representatives - accepted the invitation to attend this session January 13 to explain this 2023 budget process. 

If this Recurring Operating Referendum passes, the tax impact in the school district will be an increase of $82 per $100,000 of property evaluation.  As our property taxes have been decreasing, the referendum would level out with property taxes at less than those paid for the school year 2021-2.

If our Referendum passes, our programs will continue to be adequately funded and teachers can receive compensation equal to other school districts.  We will not have the risk of losing our well trained and dedicated teachers. 

Voting: The polls will be open from 7 AM to 8 PM on February 20, 2024.  Visit  for information about polling places.  For absentee ballots contact your municipal clerk.

Our next Community Conversations will be a program on the City of Menomonie’s Methamphetamine Program established  ~4 years ago.  This will be on February 24, 12 noon to 1:45 PM at the Menomonie Public Library.  The March Community Conversations will be one week later, March 2.  Margo Hecker will discuss the book “Seeing Red” by Michael John Witgen.  This book is about the history of our native American population after our country’s Revolutionary War.  It is about the our part of the NW Territories - Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota.  It describes the impact of the NW Ordinance of 1787, white settlement and treaties that took the land away from our Indigenous peoples.  Find out why we have many reservations in Wisconsin and how the Indigenous peoples are still losing land to generate wealth for others.

Lorene Vedder

Comments

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Abe did a great job presenting the argument for the increase in over the strangling revenue cap.  The real solution is to remove the caps and provide adequate fundin gof r education.  

The other elphaphant in the room was never addressed.  That is the community's anamosity towards the district asministrator.  Autocratic leadeership, being perceived as a "jock," and arrogance have eroded much of the good will towards the schools.

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Original Author

Summary by Lorene Vedder.

Steve Hanson
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