A Public Hearing on Madison’s November, 2008 Referendum


Taxpayers got a chance to ask the questions Tuesday night about the upcoming multimillion dollar Madison school referendum.
More than a dozen people turned out to Sherman Middle School for the first of four public hearings across the city.
Superintendent Dan Nerad gave a brief presentation before opening the forum up for questions.
Voters questioned everything from Fund 80 to the Capital Expansion Fund and student achievement.
Active Citizens for Education said they would like to have seen the referendum scheduled for the spring in order to give the district time to re-evaluate programs that they say are not working – programs that could be cut or changed.
“Where they’re talking about maintaining current programs and services it’s not getting good results,” said ACE’s Don Severson. “You look at the achievement gap, look at increased truancy, look an an increased drop-out rate, decreased attendance rates, more money isn’t going to get different results.”
Referendum supporters, Communities And Schools Together, know the $13 million referendum will be a tough sell, but worth it.
“I think it is going to be a hard sell,” said CAST member and first-grade teacher Troy Dassler. “We really need to get people out there who are interested still in investing in infrastructure. I can think of no greater an investment — even in the most difficult tough times that we’re facing that we wouldn’t invest in the future of Madison.”

Tamira Madsen:

School Board President Arlene Silveira was pleased with the dialogue and questions asked at the forum and said she hasn’t been overwhelmed with questions from constituents about the referendum.
“It’s been fairly quiet, and I think it’s been overshadowed by the presidential election and (downturn with) the economy,” Silveira said. “People are very interested, but it does take an explanation.
“People ask a lot of questions just because it’s different (with the tax components). Their initial reaction is: Tell me what this is again and what this means? They realize a lot of thought and work has gone into this and certainly this is something they will support or consider supporting after they go back and look at their own personal needs.”
Superintendent Dan Nerad has already formulated a plan for program and service cuts in the 2009-2010 budget if voters do not pass the referendum. Those include increasing class sizes at elementary and high schools, trimming services for at-risk students, reducing high school support staff, decreasing special education staffing, and eliminating some maintenance projects.
Nerad said outlining potential budget cuts by general categories as opposed to specific programs was the best route for the district at this juncture.

One thought on “A Public Hearing on Madison’s November, 2008 Referendum”

  1. Again, we spent time talking about the type of plan and review that will take place. We talked about why the budget and planning timelines are at odds this time around. And yet we have Don, again, pretending that he is unaware that reviews of any depth are unlikely to be carried out by the April election.
    Don, we may differ on the timing, but please at least acknowledge that the planning process is real and scheduled to begin in early 2009. No one, except you, is saying same service after we have had time to do the homework that needs to be done.
    I would add that yes, programs can be cut. But I’ve rarely seen an effective cut – in fact I’ve seen more harm than good done – when there isn’t a plan for what would work better. In addition, getting there with agreement and buy-in by district administration, staff, board members, parents, and the public is not going to be an easy or smooth process. And we need that process to work if we are going to make real change rather than replicate the mistakes of the past.

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