School District details what happens if the Nov. 6 school referenda pass or fail
STEVENS POINT — Failing plumbing and heating and air conditioning; building, staff and student safety and security issues; students learning in hallways; the Stevens Point Area Public School District will ask voters permission to address these issues with two referenda Tuesday, Nov. 6.
The first question will ask for a recurring $3.5 million for annual operating costs for programming, technology and ongoing maintenance. The second question will ask to borrow $75.9 million for safety and security improvements; technology upgrades; Americans with Disabilities Act updates; remodeling and additions for classrooms and academic areas, cafeterias, kitchen areas, receiving and other areas; and deferred maintenance and site
It is a lot of money, officials said, but necessary in order to tackle maintenance, safety and security, and building and programming needs that have multiplied over the past 10 years, since the last referendum failed.
“The results give us direction on how we continue for kids for the 2019-20 school year,” Superintendent Craig Gerlach said. “There’s so much at stake here. We want to maintain our programs, be appealing for families to move here, have property values continue to grow, and flourish as a community.
“It’s going to be challenging,” he said. “We can’t continue to operate our school district in a deficit and maintain what we have at the same time.”
So what happens if the referenda pass? What happens if they fail?
The short answer is if both questions pass, the district will move forward with planning for the projects identified in the bond referendum and budgeting for next school year. If both questions fail, the district will begin preparing for budget cuts beginning in the 2019-20 school year – the budgeting process begins in November annually – and also examine and potentially modify the list and come back to voters in the spring.
If the questions pass
The first question asks for money to continue operating costs. If approved, those funds will go into the district’s budget and become part of the operating pot to sustain programming, technology and maintenance functions districtwide.
The bond referendum, the second question, allows the district to borrow up to $75.9 million over 20 years. More than $50 million will be spent on deferred maintenance needs including HVAC systems, plumbing, roofs and other building infrastructure needs ; about $20 million will be spent on upgraded safety and security measures, classroom remodeling and limited additions; about $3 million will be spent on security camera upgrades.
Key players will meet to begin planning timelines for projects, which would take place during summer months over the next three years, beginning June 2019. SPASH likely will be among the first focus areas along with technology and deferred maintenance that includes repair/replace plumbing, HVAC, mechanicals and flooring.
“This is meant to meet our deferred maintenance and facility needs up to 20 years,” Gerlach said. “Some will last 30 years, some will last 10. We will be able to maintain our programs, keep opportunities for kids and keep staff intact.”
School tax rates would increase gradually until it reached its highest for the bond term at $8.91 per $1,000 equalized value. The school tax rate dropped 65 cents per $1,000 this year, so the net increase with the referendum for both questions would be 81 cents per $1,000.
If the questions fail
If both questions fail, the district will move forward twofold: preparing to cut programs and staff
through the budgeting process, which begins in November, and re-examining projects to return
to voters in spring 2019.
“If we don’t pass the bond referendum and we don’t pass the operating referendum, we have
some significant issues,” Gerlach said. “It would be devastating. We have concerns regarding
security and safety and we have to fix that.
“Everything we cut has a negative impact, it’s what has the least impact” that would be
The district’s budget is about $101 million. There are several million dollars in safety and security needs that would have to be addressed, which means cutting into other areas such as programming. Class sizes likely would increase, and academic programs could be targeted for reduction or elimination.
“I’m a believer in cutting programs rather than watering down,” Gerlach said. “You can cut a little from everything and then it’s weakening all the programs. What are we going to cut? I’m not focusing on that right now.”
“Safety and security issues we have to address.”
District leaders, School Board members and staff are aware those are real possibilities, but they aren’t delving deep into that potential, not unless voters give that direction.
If one question passes and one fails
There is also a possibility that one question would pass and another would fail. If the operating referendum passes and the bond fails, the district will review bond projects to prepare to go back to referendum in the spring; budget preparation will include examining where to reduce academic opportunities for students; class sizes likely will increase.
If the bond question passes and operating question fails, building projects will move forward, and the district would begin looking at areas to reduce the budget for operational savings and safety/security/technology needs.
For more information on the referenda, projects included and why the district is going to
referendum, visit https://www.pointschools.net/referendum