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March 6, 2006

23 WI Schools Schedule April, 2006 Referenda

Amy Hetzner:

Even though previous years have seen more school districts hold referendums - 42 in April 2001 - never before have so many scheduled referendums asked for an increase in operating revenue, according to information from the state Department of Public Instruction. The DPI has monitored referendum results since 1990, and has recorded whether the referendums involve issuing bonds or exceeding the revenue caps since 1999.

Among those seeking to boost their revenue this year are the Northern Ozaukee and Richfield school districts.

"The revenue cap has been in effect since '93," Northern Ozaukee Superintendent William Harbron said. "It's done what it's supposed to do. And people right now do not have enough revenue to operate their districts."

The rise in referendums to exceed revenue caps could be a result of declining student enrollments throughout the state, said Dale Knapp, research director of the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance.

According to a recent report by the taxpayers alliance, 239 of the state's 426 school districts had fewer students in the 2004-'05 school year than they had the year before, and 51 of those districts had their enrollment decline for five consecutive years. Revenue caps tie schools' operating income to their enrollment for the last three years.

"There's an increase in the number of districts where the revenue cap is really starting to squeeze district finances," Knapp said. "Their transportation, their heat, their building costs, their administrative costs, etc., those continue to go up. But because of the way enrollment plays into the revenue formula, their revenue is either stagnant or declining."

Posted by Jim Zellmer at March 6, 2006 6:55 AM
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