Voters question committee, administrators about upcoming referendum

Voters got one of their first chances to ask about the specifics of a $56,000,000 referendum in the Eau Claire School District two months before they make their decision

The first of three community forums brought what appeared to be a few dozen people into the same room.

A group called “Promote the Vote” showed two videos about why it says the district needs the money.

Its chair claims that it doesn't intend to try to make anyone vote yes, just to let them make an informed decision.

Organizers went through the details of the proposal for about two hours at South Middle School on Thursday evening.

One man told the crowd it looks like the district needs to fix what he called its stupid past decisions, and that it appears the district didn’t do a good job of maintaining its schools.

“We did do maintenance Jim, you know that,” ECASD School Board President Carol Craig said from across the room.

“It looks like a lot of tape put on there,” the man responded.

Supporters say passing the referendum wouldn't mean higher taxes, but rejecting it would save property owners about $87 for every $100,000 in property.

“That's less than a quarter a day, and is a quarter a day worth it to you to have quality buildings in the community?” asked committee chair Paul Gandrud.

Most of the money would go toward improvements to DeLong Middle School, and Sherman, Robbins, and Putnam heights elementary schools.

The district says the work would create more space for a growing number of students, and address infrastructure problems.

About $4,000,000 would go toward buying the current Eau Claire Lutheran School and Epiphany Church building.

Organizers say they didn't know what kind of turnout to expect on Thursday.

“Two-thirds of the people I saw were either teachers, administrators, or school board members,” said John Moskal, who has three children enrolled in the district’s schools.

They believe more people will show up to future forums.

Two parents told us the meeting left them undecided.

“There were some generalities, some dancing around, not necessarily covering specifics,” Moskal said.

“I'm not sure without a line item to look at that I can support every part of it, but I do think there are some definite needs,” said parent Ted Simpson.

A website opposing the referendum blames teacher's union members for not making sacrifices to account for the district's needs, but school board member Wendy Sue Johnson said tonight that they have dealt with a pay freeze and pay a bigger portion of their benefits now.

There are also community forums planned for February 23 at Northstar Middle School, and March 29 at DeLong Middle School.

The final decision comes during the April 5 election.

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A committee will hold it's first community forum on an Eau Claire School District referendum since the school board approved it on Monday.

Two questions on the April 5 ballot will ask for a total of almost $56 million. It would address space concerns and structural improvements in four schools, and buy a building. The forum starts at 6 p.m. at South Middle School.

An opponent group's website blames teacher's union members for not making enough sacrifices to pay for the districts needs.


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  • by Bob Location: EC on Feb 19, 2011 at 12:33 PM
    Why muddy the waters with all these other issues. Let Walker take care of the teacher pay and benefits and if you don't like what the school board is doing, either start a recall campaign or vote them out at the next election. If you've looked at the building problems and can suggest less expensive repair solutions, this is where you should comment. If you've looked at the school district's population/space projections, and have a better idea of where to put more students, this is where you should comment. There are a lot of story lines where your can go to bash the teachers, and other local elected officials. Trying to justify your position on THIS referendum by saying you don't like the school board, administration, and teachers is like me telling you that you can't put that new roof on your house because I don't like your wife, kids and ugly dog. It's just not relevant to the issue. This is simply about the SCHOOL BUILDINGS.
  • by Bob Location: EC on Feb 19, 2011 at 12:33 PM
    Because this is about local school BUILDINGS it's a local issue only! It has nothing to do with teacher pay or teacher benefits or collective bargaining. How dense do you have to be not to see this. If the ECASD needed money for operating expenses and to pay teachers, that would be a separate issue on a separate referendum. And, it most likely wouldn't pass. This is not about that. THIS referendum is to address space concerns, structural improvements in four schools, and buying a building. These are CAPITAL improvements to the school system along the lines of putting a new roof on your house. If you don't do it now, it will cost more next year. Call the Eau Claire school district business manager. He'll tell you that they cannot shift money from operating expenses to capital expenses. It's against the law. The only way to get money for buildings and equipment is from the state (fat chance) or by borrowing it and gradually paying it back with local tax revenue. (continued)
  • by anonymous on Feb 19, 2011 at 09:10 AM
    Oh, Bob. You really don't get it. This referendum does have everything to do with Madison. Basic knowledge in economics and budgeting explains that. As far as FOCUS, I'm not the one that can't comprehend other's comments. You, and the rest of the protesters, are making fools of yourselves. Bye-bye referendum . . .
  • by Bob Location: EC on Feb 16, 2011 at 01:29 PM
    @anonymous, talk about making a fool of yourself, THIS referendum has nothing to do with teachers in Madison. THIS referendum is about schools in Eau Claire. It addresses space concerns, structural improvements in four schools, and buying a building. @anonymous, you really need to learn how to FOCUS your thoughts. Maybe having your medication adjusted would help.
  • by anonymous on Feb 16, 2011 at 07:21 AM
    Bob - You clearly have a problem with reading and comprehension. I am not going to repeat myself AGAIN. Read and comprehend IN CONTEXT to the overall statements, then come back to the table to have an adult conversation. Until then, you are making a fool of yourself. Oh, and by the way, gotta love the situation in Madison right now regarding schools closing due to the teachers being no-shows . . . it's all for the kids, right? Yet again, you'd probably be more than happy to write them a check.
  • by Judy Location: Eau Claire on Feb 15, 2011 at 04:57 PM
    anonymous, WELL SAID!!! Check out this site, http://www.postcrescent.com/article/99999999/APC0110/80221166/-1/datamine/Search-Wisconsin-teacher-salaries. You'll find the salaries and benefits of teachers and support staff. Why does an elementary music teacher make over $60,000 plus benefits? And the schools threaten to cut programs like music? I know. It sounds like a riddle but it's not. It's a big joke! You made a great point that schools already have the money to do their jobs but they blow it elsewhere. It makes me sick to think of how programs like music and art get cut, children suffer, but staff get paid like pigs. Bob, you sound like a big part of the problem. Why are you so hell bent on justifying the decisions the schools make that harm the children?
  • by Bob Location: EC on Feb 15, 2011 at 12:55 PM
    @anonymous, this is not 'out of context', this is exactly what you said. Just scroll down and see for yourself. Your suggestions for what the school board should do in their budgeting process is either illegal or unethical. School boards must follow strict state guidelines when they allocate funds. They can not shift money around as easily as you can with your household budget. To learn more, call the school district business manager. The bottom line here: "... if this referendum is voted down, ... the kids will suffer." You said it, I agree, and that's all I need to know.
  • by anonymous on Feb 15, 2011 at 09:04 AM
    Bob - Where have I flip-flopped? I have merely repeated my same comment over and over to you because apparently you are incapable of reading. You have taken my statement out of context which speaks volumes about you. I stated that if the referendum fails the kids will suffer ONLY at the hands of the school board and administration, NOT at the hands of taxpayers. Again, READ! As I have stated time and time again, and as you can see in public records showing the school district's budget, there are plenty of funds CURRENTLY available to provide a top-notch education and appropriate space - the problem is that the school board and administration CHOOSE, despite directives from taxpayers, to use that money for ridiculous benefits,etc. The way I, and many others, see it, the kids are suffering no matter what the result of this referendum. THAT has to stop. And, it's not hateful or ignorant to demand that the nonsense stops. Makes 'perfect sense'.
  • by Bob Location: EC on Feb 14, 2011 at 06:05 PM
    @anonymous, on Feb 12 at 10:24 AM. You said; "I agree that if this referendum is voted down, that the kids will suffer." Now you're flip-flopping and trying to justify it with some hair-brained idea about how the budgeting process works??? At first I thought that this was more 'politics of hate', but now I realize that it's just 'politics of ignorance'. Neither has a place here, so I'm voting 'yes' for this referendum. It's the right thing to do for the kids and the community.
  • by anonymous on Feb 14, 2011 at 12:07 PM
    Oh, Bob. You just don't get it. This isn't hatred. This is demanding that leadership be held accountable for their poor decisions. What's so hateful about that? Again, READ my explanation regarding how this referendum being voted down is NOT punishment and how there is plenty of funds CURRENTLY available to provide top-notch education and appropriate building space and maintenance . . . in other words, the kids will not suffer. By the way, I do vote . . . have voted . . . and will continue to do so.
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