Referendum Approaching for La Crosse School District

On April 1st, voters in La Crosse will decide two important questions that could mean millions of dollars for education.

The first ballot question asks voters to approve almost $4.2 million for five years. That money would pay for things like student programs, building maintenance and technology replacement.

The second question would amount to $35 million and would pay for what the district calls urgent facility needs, and the consolidation of Franklin and Roosevelt elementary schools into one at the Franklin site.

We talked to the superintendent about why he says a "No" vote could put education in the district at a stand-still.

La Crosse schools superintendent Gerald Kember says he'd like to see things keep moving in the right direction.

"The District has some specific needs. We'd like to renew the current operating referendum, which the community passed in 2004, to maintain programs and services for children," he says.

Kember says he and the school board both realize times are tight and the district is just asking for the minimum.

"We've really twiddled it down. We had a much larger estimate and study that was done come to $112.3 million. We know this community can't afford that. I know our board wouldn't ask for anything like that, so they've twiddled it down to $20 million."

Over the next month the district is holding eleven meetings on three different days to help convince people on why the referendum is a good thing.

"There will be two questions. One on the operating referendum, and second, looking at the facility needs and the consolidation in the second question. So two questions, different prices tags. The first one -- no tax increase. The second one -- we have a tax increase. We're looking at about $63 on a $100,000 property."

Scott Neumeister's children attend Franklin elementary and he says he supports the referendum.

"I understand that it's getting expensive for us all. Taxes are already high so that's something we also have to look at but if it's the best thing for our children, I wouldn't mind paying more," says Neumeister.

Kember says this referendum isn't just a school issue. He says it's a community issue.

"The schools belong to the community and I think it's important the community decides whether the referendum is important to the community and the children's community."

The next information meeting for the referendum is February 28th at 6:30 p.m. at these locations: Emerson, Franklin, Hamilton, North Woods and Spence elementary schools.

There are a dozen school districts in western Wisconsin asking for money in April. To check on your school district, click on "Featured Links" at the top of the page.

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