Chippewa Falls $115 million referendum survey gets mixed results

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CHIPPEWA FALLS, Wis. (WEAU) -- A local school district is running out of time to get a referendum question on the November ballot.

The Chippewa Falls School District sent out a survey asking the community what they would prefer: the relocation and construction of a new high school, the rebuilding of Stillson Elementary School, or neither of them.

Back in January, the Chippewa Falls Area United School District decided against putting a $167 million referendum on the April ballot because of the community’s feedback, so they went back to the drawing board. This time, the survey asked Chippewa Falls’ residents about the options of a possible $115 million referendum.

The survey gauging public input on a possible referendum for Chippewa Falls Schools came back with mixed results, but overall, the district is staying positive.

“What we found from the survey participants is 65% of the participants voted “yes” to one or both options,” Heidi Taylor-Eliopoulos, Chippewa Falls Area United School District’s Superintendent, said.

That’s almost two thirds of the close to 1,900 who responded, but when it came to one option versus the other, the numbers weren’t as promising; the oldest building in the school district, Stillson Elementary, got 38% approval from the community to rebuild it, while the relocation of the high school got a slightly higher approval with 44%.

Along with the reconstruction of Stillson and the relocation of the high school, the proposed referendum would move the middle school into the old high school and millions of dollars in renovations would be done to other buildings in the district.

Eliopoulos says the school board has to come up with a decision of having it on the November ballot or not by the end of August.

“The reason they focused on the November ballot is that tends to have the highest voter turnout, especially during a presidential election,” Eliopoulos said.

After speaking with several Chippewa Falls residents, the ones who supported were in favor of one option a little more than the other.

“My kids attend Stillson and we really want a new Stillson, but we feel like a new high school sooner is more important,” Melissa Henderson of Chippewa Falls said.

Some in the community think neither of the projects in the referendum are worth the costs.

“I think that it’s a lot of money to be spending on school systems right now,” Maria Cooney of Chippewa Falls said. “But I think the high school is doing well.”

If you’d like to learn more about the possible referendum, Eliopoulos will be hosting information sessions during the week of August 8th. Community feedback is welcomed at these sessions.

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