Western Wisconsin voters mixed on school referenda in fall election

Voters in Eau Claire, Holmen, and Onalaska passed referenda for capital improvements, while other measures failed in Tuesday’s voting.
Published: Nov. 9, 2022 at 7:56 AM CST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - Wisconsin’s 2022 fall election marked a high-water moment for school referenda on ballots.

166 school referenda questions were posed to voters this year, the most since 2000, when voters decided on 192 school district referenda questions.

2000′s total was before limits on how many times a school district could place referenda questions on ballots in a calendar year and when a referendum could take place. 81 referenda questions were on ballots in Tuesday’s election.

Of the 166 items on ballots this year, 74 were questions seeking authority to borrow money for facilities projects. 25 of 35 referenda items for such projects were approved by voters earlier in the year, with 39 referenda questions in front of voters across Wisconsin in the fall election.

Western Wisconsin had a number of big-ticket items, including a $98.6 million referendum that passed easily in the Eau Claire Area School District that would address a number of facilities needs. To the east, voters in the Augusta School District approved a pair of referenda totaling $15 million for facility improvements, including a new elementary school gym.

La Crosse County saw three big-ticket referenda items pass. Bangor’s $24 million capital referendum was approved by nearly two-thirds of voters, while Holmen School District voters approved a pair of referenda. Holmen saw both its $74.5 million capital referendum and a $650,000 recurring referendum pass with over 60% of the vote, while Onalaska voters passed a facilities referendum tabbed for $75 million and also a question to exceed the revenue limit for multiple years for operational expenses easily as well. In the Prairie Farm School District, a referendum to exceed the levy limit through 2027-28 passed. Viroqua School District voters approved a pair of referenda, one for $17 million and one for $3.5 million, in Tuesday’s election.

Not all western Wisconsin school districts had success in passing their referenda. In La Crosse, a complex, multiple-facility plan that would have consolidated the La Crosse School District’s two high schools, among other changes, overwhelmingly failed on the ballot, with the $194.7 million question earning over 10,000 more “no” votes than “yes” votes with over 27,000 votes cast in the referendum. Somerset voters narrowly turned down two referenda questions, one for $11 million and one for $25.5 million, which largely consisted of athletic and common space improvements in the district. Voters in the Loyal School District also rejected a referendum to exceed the revenue limit through the 2027-28 school year.

The Wisconsin Department of Instruction did not have data available for all 81 school district referenda questions on the fall general election ballots as of Wednesday morning. Of the 85 school referenda voted on prior to the fall general election in 2022, 69 passed. That’s up from 43 of 71 school district referenda passing in 2021, according to data from the DPI.