The Answer to When
Submitted by District Administrator Gary Hansen
As Superintendent, one of the questions I receive most from citizens is “When will we be going to referendum?” In general, I think this question resurfaces because citizens realize that the State budget and policies have not been kind to public school districts.
For years, the State provided its promised 2/3 funding for public schools, resulting in the Rosendale-Brandon School District receiving 67% of its aid from the State of Wisconsin. The State has since changed its commitment to providing our public school district funding at 56%, and that commitment will continue to drop. As state funding drops, the local levy must increase, passing the difference on to local citizens.
Most damaging to public schools is the revenue cap. Just as its name suggests, the revenue cap places a limit on the amount of dollars a school district is allowed to receive in a given school year. The two primary contributors to fund the revenue cap are the state government and the local property tax. Sources such as open enrollment, federal revenue, admission, fees, etc., make up the difference. The Wisconsin State Government first created the revenue cap in 1993, and along the way has made attempts to modify the cap in terms of inflationary increases. However, in recent years, the State has elected to freeze the per student increase, resulting in no additional income for public school districts.
What does this mean to the Rosendale-Brandon School District in terms of dollars? Well, it means that the revenue cap this school year is lower than it has been in the last 10 years. We are able to collect less revenue now, to educate our students, than we were able to collect in the 2005-2006 school year. Again, less revenue than ten years ago!
Because of the reduced State revenue cap, we’ve had to spend from our fund balance the last couple of years in order to meet the financial demands. May it be known that this is not a case of your school district’s reckless spending. Far from it. The financial struggle is a case of the State’s arbitrarily and capriciously imposed revenue cap, which in my opinion, is the greatest school example of state government imposing their will upon local citizens. The only way for the citizens of the Rosendale-Brandon School District to say what kind of school district they want is to override the state government by passing a referendum.
So what is the answer to the frequently asked referendum question? At this time, it truly does look like we will need to go to referendum next year if we are to continue offering the programs our students need and to maintain this school district. While there are no details to share at this time, I assure you the school board is discussing and considering the issue.