FAQs About the Tomah Area School District Referendum
We learned from the community survey conducted in April of 2015 that our local newspaper, the Tomah Journal, is the preferred source of information on the Tomah Area School District for individuals in our community who are non-parents (i.e. no longer have children in the school district). Sixty-two percent (62%) of non-parents who completed the survey indicated that they would like to receive their information on our school district from the Tomah Journal. Recently, the Monroe County Herald has expanded their coverage and has welcomed information on the Tomah Area School District as well. We greatly appreciate the work done by local reporters to keep our residents informed about the successes of our students and teachers and the challenges faced in public education today. It only makes sense that in the months before the upcoming referendum, I provide answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about the referendum in the paper since it is an important source of information for many people in our community. Here are some FAQs:
1) Why does the school district have to go to referendum? A 1993 law limited how much the Board of Education can raise property taxes to fund our schools each year. Meanwhile, the direct funding from the state has been significantly reduced, requiring us to ask the community for extra funds to continue current programs.
2) Why doesn’t the district implement cost cutting measures to balance the budget? We have! Since 2010-11, the district has eliminated approximately 15 teaching positions throughout the district. Savings generated by Act 10 included over $1.2 million from requiring staff to pay increased costs for retirement and health benefits, $300,000 from freezing wages, $600,000 from changing insurance companies, and an estimated $2.5 million over twelve years in post-retirement benefit changes.
3) How will the referendum money be used? Operating referendum funds will be used to help the district preserve current class sizes, maintain quality programs and course offerings for students, and continue the District’s technology initiatives so that we are preparing our students for the 21st century workplace. The money allows us to sustain educational programs and maintain current levels of operational expense.
4) How much money is the school district requesting and how will it impact me? The question on the April 5 ballot will ask voters to support a non-recurring referendum for an additional $1.5 million for the next 3 consecutive years. The additional monthly cost to the taxpayer over the next 3 years (36 months) decreases from $2.08 per month in the first year to $1.00 per month in the second year to just $0.66 per month in the third year. Over three years, the estimated total tax impact would only be $45 for every $100,000 of property valuation. That averages to $1.25 per month increase for that three year period.
5) How does the Tomah Area School District spending compare to neighboring districts? Historically Tomah Area School District taxpayers have a lower school tax (mill) rate than neighboring districts. Currently taxpayers in Tomah pay $851.00 in school taxes on a $100,000 home. If you lived in Black River Falls, you would pay $945.00; in Sparta, you would pay $956.00; in New Lisbon, $1030.00; in Norwalk-Ontario-Wilton $1054.00; in Mauston, $1196.00; and in LaCrosse, $1237.00. Our spending is 38th lowest in the state of Wisconsin out of 368 K-12 school districts. The Tomah Area School District consistently ranks in the bottom 10% of school districts in spending.
What other questions do you have? What additional information do you need? Please email or call me with those questions and I will gladly provide answers in the March edition of The School Bell. Also, Board members and administrators from the Tomah Area School District are more than willing to present information at any community get-togethers or meetings. Just give me a call and we’ll get your event on our schedule. No event is too small- a ladies quilting club, your Saturday night card club, a church potluck- we want to meet with you and answer your questions. We want you to be an educated voter on the issue of the Tomah Area School District Referendum on April 5!
If you have any questions or comments about the information and opinions expressed in this edition of The School Bell, please contact Cindy Zahrte, District Administrator, at email@example.com or 374-7002.