Spring election 2019: Salem School Board authorizes operational referendum for April 2

Salem School District voters will be able to weigh in on a non-recurring operational referendum on April 2.

The referendum was approved in a series of resolutions voted on by the Salem School Board Thursday. All were approved unanimously with board member Nick Pauloni absent.

The board will be seeking to exceed the levy limit by $1.5 million to help support the 2019-2020 budget (in addition to the $1,070,000 already authorized in a 2017 referendum), by $3 million for 2020-2021, and by $3.6 million for 2021-2022.

Exact expected ballot language will be:

Shall the Salem School District , Kenosha County, Wisconsin be authorized to exceed the revenue limit specified in Section 121.91, Wisconsin Statutes, by $1,500,000 for the 2019-2020 school year, by $3,000,000 for the 2020-2021 school year and by $3,600,000 for the 2021-2022 school year, for non-recurring purposes consisting of general operational costs associated with repairing roofs and the facilities, upgrading safety, security and technology, and maintaining educational programming?

School officials were quick to point out the additional spending authority would not increase taxes because of the district’s efforts to pay off debt in recent years.

“This will not increase taxes,” said board member Lisa Hinze.

The district asked voters for a similar operational referendum in 2017, which passed. The last year of spending approved by that referendum overlaps with the new referendum.

District administrator David Milz said referendums to exceed revenue limits have become common in Wisconsin in order for districts to make ends meet.

“The funding system for Wisconsin public schools is broken,” Milz said. “They’re trying to fix it, but we can’t bank on that.”

Among the issues cited by Milz as needing to be addressed at the school with the additional spending authority are repairs to the roof on the 1996 addition and funding a new language arts curriculum to replace the current curriculum that is over 20 years old. Building fund balance is also a priority. Having more fund balance would also allow the district to avoid having to do short-term borrowing to cover expenses between receiving tax payments.

At the meeting, the board also approved working with law firm Quarles & Brady regarding the referendum. Milz said the company will be consulted regarding legal requirements.

Milz said Quarles & Brady will bill by the hour and typical billings for schools range from $1,950 to $2,750.

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