Eleva-Strum school district $1.2M referendum passed

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STRUM, Wis. (WEAU) -- Voters have approved a referendum for the Eleva-Strum school district.

The $1.2 million referendum would be used to maintain current school operations and educational opportunities for students.

The money would be divided over the next two years at $600,000 each year for the 2013-14 and 2014-15 school years.

With 8 of 8 precincts reporting, 523 voters said yes and 474 said no.

Several townships came close and some even tying like Albion at 95-95 and Clear Creek at 15-15. Pleasant Valley was close to a tie at 58-59. As expected, the majority of Eleva and Strum voted yes.

Superintendent Craig Semingson said he's happy voters passed the referendum, putting children's education first.

"We have a lot of good programs here at Eleva-Strum and with the referendum passing we can continue those programs," said Semingson.

Still, he said there's a lot of work to do over the next two years.

After two years, once the referendum is complete, the district will still continue to have a large budget deficit.

The district is expecting a $715,000 shortfall for 2015-16.

"Our plan is to assess the community to see what they want to do after two years," said Semingson. "One of the options we're looking at is probably combining all three of our buildings into one site, we'll be surveying the public on that and seeing if that's the direction that they want to go."

If the survey shows the majority want to combine the buildings into one site, another referendum may be up to vote after two years.

Semingson said property taxes are expected to go up by around $123 a year for $100,000 of property value.

Other cuts have been made within the school district to reduce the budget deficit, as seen on the Eleva-Strum website:

Since 2010, we have been able to hold down costs by:
•purchasing a high deductible health insurance plan for staff
•requiring staff to pay 10% of their health insurance premium
•requiring staff to pay 5.8% toward their retirement benefits
•staff wages were frozen for the 2011-12 school year in order to balance the budget for that year
•we had a large number of retirements since 2010, including seven teachers and five support staff, allowing us to hire replacements at lower wages
•cut one full time special education teacher position

Prior to 2010, the following reductions were made:
•full time middle school teacher
•80% middle school/high school health teacher
•full time middle school guidance counselor
•50% custodian
•kindergarten aide position
•50% elementary librarian aide
•teacher salaries frozen for the years 2005-06, 2006-07, and 2009-10.
•other reductions in spending by waiting to replace textbooks, not increasing supply budgets, purchasing replacement uniforms for fewer sports each year, and increasing student fees

The last time Eleva-Strum had a referendum was in the 1990s.

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