A referendum with no tax hike?

In the coming months, the Green Lake School District may ask voters to approve a funding referendum where no one would even feel the difference.

In other words, a “yes” vote would keep the budget and local school taxes at current levels — maybe even less.

But a “no” vote would mean a reduction in the state-imposed revenue limit (the amount that’s taxed locally). This would mean a deficit of about $300,000 and could force big budget cuts.

It’s a backwards, complicated scenario that school officials understand will be tough to explain to the average citizen.

Basically, it boils down to a funding referendum needed just to maintain the status quo, officials are saying. And school district residents could be asked to cast that vote as early as August.

The school district’s Long-Range Planning Committee discussed the matter at length at a public meeting April 21.

Superintendent Ken Bates explained the district is forecasting a funding gap of about $305,000 next school year, going hand in hand with “[possibly] seven less students” and a complex Wisconsin school-funding formula that Bates has long said doesn’t work in the district’s favor.

If this projection holds, the district’s taxing authority would drop by about that amount next school year, with a slide of just seven students. Committee members reacted with surprise.

“Now that just doesn’t make sense,” Ron Triemstra said.

At the same time, though, the Green Lake School District may be in a good position to hold a referendum to make up the difference, as other taxable debt is getting paid off.

“If you see why the number of [school] referendums are out there, this revenue limit is really onerous,” Bates said. “... The good news is that because of that debt coming off, we could override the state revenue limit through referendum to levy that $305,000 [of lost operations revenue for 2014-15]. We’d still be less than our current budget this year.”

Committee members appeared to support that course.

“That, to me, is somewhat of an easy sell, if it’s put out there correctly from the fact that we’re actually not asking for more money,” Triemstra said. “Because of the ‘glitch’ in the system, we have to ask that we can spend the same money ... We’re not asking for more money ...”

“We don’t need more revenue; we need the same revenue. The catch is, the difference falls under the referendum now,” Triemstra said.

Committee members admitted it should be a simple sell, but it’s still tricky to explain ... Continue reading the full article, only in the May 1 issue of the Ripon Commonwealth Press.

Recommended for you