The topic of an operating referendum came out of discussion on a potential 2020 facilities referendum, which could be as high as $280 million.
“I love talking about the facilities referendum, it’s exciting, it’s new stuff,” Carusi said. “But without that operating-to-exceed referendum, we’re looking at a lot of difficult cuts and choices.”
Kelly Ruppel, the district’s chief financial officer, said district officials could put together information on a possible operating referendum for the board to talk about in either August or September.
The School Board also decided to temporarily shelve a guiding long-range facilities plan, which includes recommendations on the potential 2020 referendum and longer-term suggestions such as responding to changes in enrollment and whether to sell the district’s Downtown administration building.
Some board members said they would rather focus on gathering input on and finalizing a capital referendum for next year and avoid confusion on how the long-range facilities plan factors into it.
To get on the November 2020 ballot, the board would have to approve the language used in the referendum question by May 25. The board discussed its interest on Monday in authorizing the referendum before the May deadline, possibly in March or April.
The referendum could include more than asking taxpayers to fund facilities. An operating referendum approved by Madison voters in 2016 allowed the district to raise more than $25 million over the last several years, but funding from that vote runs out at the end of the upcoming school year.
Not having an operating referendum alongside the facilities question in 2020 could make next year’s budget cycle difficult, as the board might have to decide potential cuts. The board approved a $463 million preliminary budget proposal last month.
“We’ll be faced with a choice this year as to whether we want to offer another operating-to-exceed referendum and we haven’t built that into the dialogue or feedback process thus far,” board vice president Kate Toews said. “We have been very focused on our capital referendum to improve and innovate our facilities.”
The board will likely start having more discussions about a potential operating referendum in the fall now that state funding for the next two years is set.
The board also approved on Monday a transfer of $185,000 from a reserve fund to increase staff compensation.
Yet, we have long tolerated disastrous reading results.