$80 million referendum largest ever for Western

2012-07-24T00:00:00Z 2012-07-24T06:04:24Z $80 million referendum largest ever for WesternBy PATRICK B. ANDERSON | panderson@lacrossetribune.com La Crosse Tribune

Western Technical College’s appeal to voters for $79.8 million marks the biggest referendum in the school’s 100-year history.

The referendum will appear on the Nov. 6 election ballot. If it passes, Western officials will borrow beyond state funding limits to upgrade a number of academic buildings.

Newer facilities are a key part of Western’s plans to add nearly 1,000 students, cut energy costs and improve programming for students and employers, officials say.

“Industry has changed,” said Mike Pieper, Western’s vice president of finance and operations. “We’re trying to keep up with that.”

The referendum would add to a base property tax rate that is already one of the highest in the state for a technical college. Western’s tax rate is high because the college serves a large number of students in a rural area, with lower property values and a smaller tax base, officials say.

“If we had less students, we’d have less costs, less levy,” Pieper said.

Western is one of two institutions in the Wisconsin Technical College System with a tax rate set at the legal maximum of $1.50 for each $1,000 in property value. Debt pushes it higher. In the 2011-12 school year, property owners paid $209.71 for every $100,000 of assessed value.

Yearly taxes would increase $39 on homes worth $100,000 if the referendum passed.

Western officials cut staff and programming when the college lost about $2 million in state aid last year. The referendum will allow the school to better answer employers’ cries for skilled labor, despite state budget cuts, officials say.

The money would fund six building projects, including a $32.6 million addition to the technology center.

Plans for an “integrated” technology center would bring together programs scattered across campus and house them under one roof. A combined learning space helps increase the potential for student collaboration, Pieper said.

“Now, the student that’s learning to design a part can be next to a student that’s fabricating a part, next to a student that’s welding on the part,” Pieper said.

Proposed improvements also include remodeling Coleman Center for $26.5 million for general education classrooms, and $10.1 million to upgrade Kumm Center’s health and science facilities.

If the referendum passes, officials plan to start construction in June.

Copyright 2015 La Crosse Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(9) Comments

  1. coach
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    coach - July 24, 2012 7:57 pm
    Vote YES. This the future of our children
  2. allcav
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    allcav - July 24, 2012 2:53 pm
    Even building up English at Western won't help CPA learn to spell or compose an intelligent sentence.

    So, it's $50 here for storm water, $200 here for Western, 3+ % raise for teachers, and whatever else for a new elementary school -- all chipping away at my fixed income that's not moving up at all. Sorry, no.
  3. CPA574629
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    CPA574629 - July 24, 2012 2:07 pm
    yes but we shuld bild a stadum not a classrome bilding becasue Penndusky State has a lott of good football players who cuold come 2 Lacross.
  4. CJ
    Report Abuse
    CJ - July 24, 2012 11:38 am
    Let's see the Tirbune hike up their panties and do a poll question on this story...............find your own $$$$ as the taxpayer has given enough to these places already................
  5. Buggs Raplin
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    Buggs Raplin - July 24, 2012 8:37 am
    A thousand times, NO!
  6. Sulley
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    Sulley - July 24, 2012 7:19 am
    But, they spend the money on "Capital Improvements" fancy stonework and trendy cafeteria remodeling and making major building changes that do not increase student capacity or add any value other than it looks pretty. Then at the same time they cut programs, teachers and classes.
  7. Seriously Now
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    Seriously Now - July 24, 2012 6:07 am

    The referendum will allow the school to better answer employers’ cries for skilled labor, despite state budget cuts, officials say." It ain't just hand saws and wood any more. You can't teach up to date tech skills with five year old computers running Windows XP.
  8. Sulley
    Report Abuse
    Sulley - July 24, 2012 1:40 am

    WTC wastes so much money on stuff that looks pretty but is not needed it is ridiculous. I'm all for being able to provide a quality education but most "improvements" that get made don't have anything to do with that. They are all about having new neat things to show off when the powers that be give tours to other powers that be from other areas.
  9. David Jarzemski
    Report Abuse
    David Jarzemski - July 24, 2012 12:31 am
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