Wheatland J1 School District authorizes operational and capital referendums

The Wheatland J1 School District Board on Wednesday passed resolutions authorizing operational and capital referendums to be voted on April 3, 2018.

One referendum question will be to allow the board to exceed the revenue limit by $625,000 per year for four years for non-recurring purposes. The other will be a question authorizing the issuance of general obligation bonds in an amount not to exceed $8.45 million for capital projects.

The three resolutions related to the referendums all passed unanimously, with board member Heidie Dunn absent.

The operational referendum would be substantively the same as an authorization to exceed the revenue limit passed by voters in 2014. Consequently, if it is passed it will have no tax increase impact.

The capital question if approved would increase taxes by 48 cents per thousand dollars of assessed value, district officials say. That would be $96 annually on a house assessed at $200,000.

District administrator Martin McGinley said the operational referendum is needed due to the structure of the state mandated funding formula. The district, in his tenure, has made spending cuts but further cuts are not practical and the district’s fund balance — roughly equivalent to savings or a rainy day fund — would be gone within two years of trying to make up the lost funding from the operational referendum.

Referring to the operational referendum, McGinley said “This is probably the way of doing business for Wheatland going forward … There’s no way to cut $625,000.”

As for the capital spending referendum, McGinley said the bond revenue if approved would go for projects including: Dedicated middle school drop-off/pick-up lane; added parking; resurface and reconfigure driveways, parking lots and playgrounds; renovating library into flexible multi-media instructional space; better secure entrance; renovate early childhood, 4K and art classrooms; add two classrooms for science conversion; renovate to create a science lab and shared space for hands-on learning; renovate former middle school cafeteria to become STEM classroom and Community Maker Space; create a functional hallway and storage space to improve efficiency and expand usable space; ADA compliance in the elementary wing.

“We have a lot of mechanical needs, especially on the elementary side,” McGinley said, displaying a photo of an air handling system installed in the building in the 1950s.

Existing debt for the middle school addition, started in 1997, will be paid off in the spring, McGinley said.

After the holidays pass, McGinley anticipates efforts to educate the public about the need for the referendums to pass to begin in earnest.

The board attempted a non-recurring referendum for four years seeking authority to exceed the revenue limit by $750,000 in April 2014 which failed by a vote of No 286, Yes 233.  In October 2014, a non-recurring referendum for four years seeking authority to exceed the revenue limit by $625,000 passed by a vote of Yes 357, No 186.


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