Madison School Board approves a substantial tax and spending hike fall 2020 referendum

Scott Girard:

If approved, the district would be able to exceed the revenue limit by $6 million in 2020-21, an additional $8 million in 2021-22, another $9 million in 2022-23 and finally another $10 million in 2023-24. The referendum would allow the district to surpass the revenue limit by that total of $33 million in perpetuity thereafter.

Property owners would see an increase of $59 per $100,000 of value in year one, according to the district’s presentation. By 2023-24, the cumulative increase in the operating referendum as well as an increasing mill rate impact of the capital referendum would bring that to $151 per $100,000 of property value above the current taxes that go to the school district.

Board members and staff said the pandemic has only added to the need for additional funding in the fall and in future years, with the long-term effects still largely unknown. Board member Cris Carusi clarified that they can amend the amount of the operating referendum until Aug. 17, in case they find out there are large cuts from the state.

The $33 million operating referendum would help the district offset any coronavirus-related state budget cuts this year and work on some of its Strategic Equity Projects.

While Gov. Tony Evers has said he hopes a Budget Repair Bill isn’t necessary amid predicted state revenue losses, the School Board voted to hedge against that possibility with further cuts in its preliminary budget approved last month. That meant removing most of the previously planned salary increase for staff.

Logan Wroge:

Belmore added the “community’s appetite for referenda hasn’t lessened in the wake of the health crisis we’re going through, but rather we’re learning that our public schools and the safety and academic achievement of our kids is more important now than ever.”

If both referendums pass — and the board uses its entire spending authority under state law — the owner of an average-value Madison home, now estimated at $311,500, could expect to pay $480 more in property taxes a year by 2023-24.

For more than a year, the district has crafted plans on how to redesign the high schools, solicited feedback on the highest needs at the decades-old buildings — the newest of which was built in 1965 — and hired developer J.H. Findorff and Son as the construction manager.

Fall 2020 Administration Referendum slides. (

(Note: “Madison spends just 1% of its budget on maintenance while Milwaukee, with far more students, spends 2%” – Madison’s CFO at a fall 2019 referendum presentation.)

MMSD Budget Facts: from 2014-15 to 2020-21 [July, 2020]

Property taxes up 37% from 2012 – 2021.

MMSD Budget Facts: from 2014-15 to 2020-21
1. 4K-12 enrollment: -1.6% (decrease) from 2014-15 to projected 2020-21
2. Total district staffing FTE: -2.9% (decrease) from 2014-15 to proposed 2020-21
3. Total expenditures (excluding construction fund): +15.9% +17.0% (increase) from 2014-15 to proposed 2020-21
4. Total expenditures per pupil: +17.8% +19.0%(increase) from 2014-15 to proposed 2020-21
5. CPI change: +10.0% (increase) from January 2014 to January 2020
6. Bond rating (Moody’s): two downgrades (from Aaa to Aa2) from 2014 to 2020
1. DPI WISEdash for 2014-15 enrollment; district budget book for projected 2020-21 enrollment
2. & 3.: District budget books
5. Bureau of Labor Statistics (

– via a kind reader (July 9, 2020 update).

2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our Disastrous Reading Results

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration

Curated Education Information