Tomah Area School District voters stuck with the status quo April 2. Electors returned two incumbents to the Tomah School Board and extended the district's authority to exceed state-imposed revenue caps by $1.5 million annually for the next four years.
"I hope that means people like the direction we're taking the Tomah School District and that people in the community value education," said board member Pam Buchda, who was re-elected with fellow incumbent Gary Grovesteen. Both will serve three-year terms.
The referendum passed with 59 percent of the vote, down slightly from the 61 percent approval in 2016. It received 65 percent in the city of Tomah with the margins much closer in the outlying areas. The referendum prevailed in the villages of Warrens, Oakdale and Camp Douglas but lost in the village of Wyeville and nine of the 17 towns.
"I can't emphasize enough how appreciative we are ... we are grateful for every single vote," said school district superintendent Cindy Zahrte. "We will continue to work hard to be wise stewards of taxpayer dollars while offering the children of our community the best possible education to prepare them for their future."
She said the referendum will allow the district to hire additional counselors and special education teachers "whose specialized skills help to create an improved learning environment for all students."
The referendum's passage means the school property tax rate will remain stable over the next four years barring major changes in property values or funding from the state. Had the referendum failed, taxes would have shrunk by 85 cents per thousand.
Buchda said the public outreach effort made a big difference. She said the board and administration were determined to gather public input after a 2015 referendum narrowly failed.
"The outreach was essential," Buchda said. "After the failed referendum, Cindy took the bull by the horns and ran with it. She has been very good about with meeting people, and not just in referendum years."
Tomah Journal editor Steve Rundio can be reached at email@example.com.