Cost of 3 MMSD Referendums: $85.1M

On March 28, the Madison School Board will vote to place three referendums on the ballot in a special election on May 24. The total bill for the referendums will be $85.1M if the operating budget referendum is for three years, as proposed by Finance Chair Carol Carstensen.

The operating budget referendum will increase to the MMSD share of the property tax by $44.4M cumulatively by the third year. The $22.2M increase for the third year will be permanent. This referendum allows the school district to exceed state revenue limits by $7.4 each year. In effect, the $7.4M doubles in the second year and triples in the third year. In other words, a successful referendum adds $7.4M to the MMSD tax in the first year, $14.M in the second year and $22.2M in the third year.
According to Assistant Superintendent Roger Price, the increase in the MMSD property tax on the average property currently valued at $204,500 would be $82.99 in 05-06, $211.64 in 06-07 and $331.17 in 07-08. At the end of three years, tax payers will have spent an additional $44.4M on the operating budget over and above state revenue limits. Because the changes in the revenue limits will be permanent, the tax level will remain at an additional $22.2M forever. However, because the state legislature raises the limits on school property taxes each year, the base for the school tax will also be larger with each year. The district does not include this additional amount in its calculations of the costs of the operating budget referendum.
Until last week, the administration estimated the new taxes caused by an operating budget referendum at $164 per year on the average home. That estimate assumed that the Board voted for a one-year referendum to raise $8.6M, not the up-to-three year referendum that the Board now prefers.
The referendum to construct a second school on the Leopold School site will add $14.5M to the homeowner�s tax for schools over a fifteen year period. The district estimates that the school referendum adds $20 per year to the taxes paid on the average Madison home.
The referendum for maintenance and other items will cost $26.2M over five years. This referendum will not increase property taxes. It prevents a decrease of $82 per year for the average home owner. The maintenance referendum asks taxpayers to forgo a drop in taxes that will occur when the last five-year maintenance referendum lapses.
Until March 14, the revenues from this referendum would have gone only to maintenance of the district�s facilities. However, Carol Carstensen persuaded the majority to amend the maintenance referendum. Now money from the referendum could be used to building maintenance or for operating needs such as the purchase of computers, microscopes, and textbooks. If the operating budget referendum fails, the dollars from the maintenance referendum could easily be used for operating costs.