Boots & Sabers

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1154, 01 Apr 19

Taxpayers Consider Massive New Debt Tomorrow

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.


1154, 01 April 2019


  1. Mark Hoefert

    I imagine on Wednesday Bray Architects will be spiking the ball like this:

    Congratulations to the school districts of Brillion, Coleman, Fall Creek, Fall River, Horicon, Northern Ozaukee, Valders Area, Wheatland J1, and Whitnall! All successfully passed referendums on Tuesday, April 3, 2018.
    We are proud to have worked alongside our clients to create effective communication strategies that addressed the specific needs of each district. These successful referendums are a testament to the hard work and dedication that each district put into their facility planning and campaigns. We look forward to continuing our partnership with these communities throughout the completion of the referendum projects!

    It’s the “continuing our partnership with these communities throughout the completion of the referendum projects” that will bring home the money for them.

    They only have to roll over the communities one by one. Not like the highway builders lobby that has to pay tribute to all those state legislators.

  2. Mar

    But, but, it’s for the children.

  3. steveegg

    Narrator – It’s mostly for the adults, and mostly for the teachers/WEAC.

    Just say no.

  4. dad29

    They only have to roll over the communities one by one.

    Exactly how WEAC bargained its way to the Very Most Finest And ExPENsive salary and benefits program in the entire galaxy.

    I know that because the WEAC negotiator for all of East Central Wisconsin left that position and we had a very nice talk about his sins.

  5. MjM

    Quick round up of school referendums… that I can find via MKE Urinal-Sentinal. 100% reporting.

    West Bend : NO by 8%
    Salem: YES by 8%
    Kettle Moraine. NO by 2%
    Palmyra-Eagle NO by 22%
    Shorewood #1 YES by 21%
    Shorewood #2. YES by 32%
    St. Francis. NO by 26%
    River Hills. YES by 30%
    New Berlin NO by 6%
    Waterford. YES. By one vote. (not kidding)

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