Boots & Sabers

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2141, 14 Oct 19

West Bend School District Private Task Force Presents to School Board

The Washington County Insider has video of the presentation, comments from some attendees, and has posted the presentation. You can download the entire presentation here or check it out at the Washington County Insider.

In summary, after a metric crap ton of work, the Task Force found:

  1. The 25 year facilities plan is out of date and based on bad inputs. It needs to be redrafted and continually updated.
  2. Overall maintenance for the district is chronically underfunded by a factor of 2X-3X, leading to structured decay of facilities.
  3. These two things need to be fixed before venturing into a building/renovating initiative so that we break the cycle.
  4. There are legitimate facilities needs that need to be addressed.

Then, we offered some findings for the High School and Elementary Schools that spurred the referendum. For the High School, the Task Force identified some legitimate needs and the opportunity to do a couple of wants for a total of $21.3 million.

The Elementary Schools is where the boldest idea came into play. The Task Force evaluated several options, but the one that makes the most sense is to:

  • Build an awesome new Elementary School and Campus somewhere on the south side of West Bend and make a small addition to Green Tree Elementary.
  • Into the new Southside campus, consolidate Decorah Elementary, Fair Park Elementary, Jackson Elementary, the District Office, the maintenance shed, and Rolf Education Center. Sell all of those other properties and put them back on the tax rolls. It would mean closing and selling seven buildings/land (including the empty land that was purchased for a new Jackson Elementary) and replacing them with a single facility.
  • Total cost for this is about $28.6 million.

So far we’re spending $49.9 million. Outrageous! OWEN… WHAT THE HECK!?!? ARE YOU SUPPORTING MORE SPENDING AND A MASSIVE NEW REFERENDUM!?!?!?

Kinda, but here’s the key… through the consolidation of the elementary schools and other facilities and making some choices about outsourcing or economizing some support services like custodial, IT, grounds keeping, food service, etc., the district can free up enough of their operating budget to cover the mortgage payment for the new buildings AND put more money into maintenance so that the district’s facilities will be properly maintained moving forward.

A referendum would be required to borrow the money to execute on a plan like this, but it would not constitute incremental spending and would NOT require a tax increase. The district would be able to make major upgrades to the physical infrastructure while living within its means.

Solving problems without spending more money? That’s a conservative path forward. All you have to do is go into it with the mindset that it can be done… because it can.

I don’t usually spend much time in the comments, but if you have serious questions about the Task Force’s findings, the thought process behind them, or the homework supporting them, I will endeavor to answer them in the comments of this post. For a while…


2141, 14 October 2019


  1. Mark Hoefert

    When considering the concept of a new elementary school with capacity for 750 students, district facilities, and potential future expansion, what kind of site requirements were assumed? Acreage, sewer/water, etc.?  Looks like a substantial amount of land is being annexed for an industrial park on the southeast corner of the City.

  2. Owen

    To support that kind of building with sufficient room for expansion, it requires about 22-25 acres. Ideally, it would be in an area served by city water and sewer. A well and septic system for a facility that large is costly. The City of West Bend’s services extend as far south as NN in places:

    So if you think about a site roughly that size in an area from somewhere from the High School south to NN, and as far West as P, that would be an ideal location. We spent some time looking at maps of current and future population growth in the district and think that general area would be ideal to serve the students of today and absorb a good chunk of potential/projected population growth.

  3. Jenn Donath

    Hi Owen,

    Thank you–and thank you to the other members of the WBSDPTF–for taking the time to do this.

    I was one of the people who supported the referendum, so I was glad to see community leaders were still willing to find sensible solutions for our schools. Even though the referendum failed, that doesn’t mean we’ve given up on the district/buildings/students.

    Take care,

  4. Owen

    Thank you, Jenn, and thank you for your continued support for our school district. I think that the vast majority have the same goals – great school for our kids – even though we have some different ideas on what that means and how to get there. We have some legitimate facilities needs that need to be addressed. While I am certain that our task force did not answer all of the questions, hopefully we offered a framework and path to get to those answers that most people can support.

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