WEAU | Eau Claire, Wisconsin | News

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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