Wow. This is a tremendous amount of new debt to take on – especially when the likelihood of a recession in the next couple of years is substantial.
Tuesday’s spring election will have voters considering nearly $1.2 billion in property tax increases, thanks to school district referenda. Forty-eight districts across the state are asking voters to approve projects ranging from brand new schools, to operating costs, and security upgrades.
A vast majority of the money that school districts are asking for would issue debt to property owners in the districts. This debt would be paid for by increasing local property taxes. Across the state, 26 districts are asking for more than $1.1 billion total in new debt.
According to the Department of Public Instruction (DPI), 85eighty five percent of the referenda up for vote will issue debt directly to the taxpayers. Of the remaining 15 percent remaining, 14 percent are non-recurring or “one-time” increases on spending caps for the districts. Recurring increases on spending caps make up the remaining 1 percent of the amount up for vote.
Of the districts asking to issue new debt, the largest spender is Sun Prairie School District, which is asking for $164 million to build a new high school. Neenah School District is asking for voters to consider $129 million in debt to construct a new middle school, renovate several other buildings, and increase school security district wide.
Seven districts are requesting a recurring increase, which has no end date, and will continue to roll over year after year. Most of the recurring costs provisions would increase staff salaries or expand after-school programs. Sun Prairie has a ballot measure requesting $5 million a year to staff the new high school. DeForest Area is requesting a recurring $2.5 million for operational costs and district programming.