he Madison School Board will put one $23.5 million referendum question to voters in the Nov. 7 general election.
If approved, the referendum would provide $17.7 million for a new elementary school on the Far West Side, $2.7 million for an addition at Leopold Elementary, and $3.1 million to refinance debt.
It also would free up $876,739 in the portion of next year’s operating budget that is subject to state revenue limits. Board members could use that money to restore some of the spending cuts in the $332 million budget they recently approved, which eliminated the equivalent of about 86 full-time positions to help close a $6.9 million gap between what it would cost to continue the same programs and services next year and what the district can raise in taxes under revenue limits.
Susan Troller has more:
The board voted unanimously to hold the referendum in November, rather than placing in on the ballot during the fall primary in September. The later date, board members said, provides more time to organize an educational effort on why the projects are necessary.
“We’ll see what happens,” said board member Ruth Robarts, the lone dissenting voice on the decision to bundle all three projects together in a single question to voters in the general election. Robarts, who preferred asking the three questions separately, said she was concerned that voters who did not like one project might be likely to vote against all three.
What’s the outlook for a successful referenda? I think, as I wrote on May 4, 2006 that it is still hard to say:
- I agree with Ed that Monday’s civilized board meeting absent any bullying is a good sign.
- There’s been some board turnover since that vote that may be helpful.
- On the other hand, there’s the ongoing effort to kill 4th and 5th grade strings (5th year of the Administration’s “onslaught” – not even a rounding error in the District’s 332.9M budget),
- The Administration’s recent elementary principal movements,
- this year’s distribution of 06/07 school allocations before any public budget discussion,
- the equity task force (the District’s enrollment is basically flat or slightly declining and many current facilities have needs: some elementary schools don’t have cafeterias for example)
- recent concerns over report card content (curriculum and school climate concerns and positive changes, which I hope to be able to post soon, not to mention the movement toward more mandatory grouping whether it’s the playground or West High’s English 10),
- health care costs ($37M – 11% of the budget)
- and food policy will certainly be on voter’s minds.
Televising all board meetings and a more active district website may or may not help, depending of course, on what’s being written or mentioned.
Jason Shephard’s seminal piece on the future of Madison’s public schools will resonate for some time.
Lots of details on the May, 2005 referenda, including the failed Leopold question can be found here.