Why does the district have these needs? Has it been wasteful in the past?
The district has been extremely prudent and responsible with community members’ investments in their local schools. The challenges of the school district are not the result of overspending, but rather a function of the state’s school finance laws that penalize low-spending districts like Howard-Suamico.
As noted, the HSSD receives less state aid on an annual basis than 90 percent of the districts in the state. Just last year alone, it received $7 million less than the average Wisconsin school district.
Aren’t there new buildings in HSSD? Why didn’t the district work to address its operational needs before constructing new facilities?
The simple answer is, it did. While changes to state law (along with demographic shifts) make long-range financial planning difficult, the district has crafted a prudent and well-considered plan to reduce its debt and provide taxpayers with long-term stability. The ongoing effect of the state-imposed revenue caps, most notably the state funding formula freeze in the most recent biennial budget, becomes more cumbersome each year.
Didn’t voters just reject a plan to address the district’s needs?
Yes. In April 2017, voters were presented with a referendum question that, if passed, would have authorized the board of education to override the state-imposed revenue limit on a recurring basis. After the results were announced, some residents asked, “Now what?”
The simple answer is that the needs of our schools will not go away. Therefore, we will go back to the drawing board and come up with a solution that meets the needs of our students and community. The situation is urgent, and so this work has already begun.
Subsequent to the April 2017 referendum results, the community response survey offered two key findings: do not place a recurring referendum on the ballot; and greater clarity on why an operational referendum is necessary and how the funds will be used. These findings will guide the work of the Community Task Force and the Board.
What about open enrollment? Has the district taken too many open-enrolled students? Can it take more?
Over the years, the Board has closely monitored the number of students the school district takes in through open enrollment. Like an airline that has extra seats available to a popular destination, the district has sought to open enrollment in a way that preserves its programs and services, while a