Strong schools help shape the future of our children, and a strong school district helps shape the future of our community. That is why the Tomah Area School District Board of Education approved a referendum question which will appear on the April 2 spring election ballot to renew our current operating referendum.

We are again asking our taxpayers to exceed revenue limits by $1.5 million dollars each of the next four years. Three years ago when we passed the first referendum for operating costs, we were asked, “What will happen when this referendum ends?” We responded with, “We will most likely be back asking support for a second operating referendum.” And that is exactly where we are at.

I believe it is important for district residents to look back at the last three years to see that the district’s estimates on tax increases due to the operating referendum were much lower than what had been predicted. The chart below represents what had been estimated and the actual increase (that was actually a decrease all three years), which occurred with the April 2016 passage of the $1.5 million operating referendum:

Year; estimated tax increase $100,000 property; actual increase on $100,000 property

2016-17;$25.00;-$4.16

2017-18;-$13;-$42.12

2018-19;-$ 4;-$58.96

In the community survey conducted last October, residents of the Tomah Area School District indicated significant support for renewing our current operating referendum: 75 percent of parents and 68 percent of non-parent residents who responded indicated they definitely or probably would vote yes on continuing the same level of financial support ($1.5 million) in the future. This level of support is greatly appreciated, yet we understand that we have a responsibility to explain to all residents of our school district how this additional funding will benefit our students and our community.

We are using the results from our community survey to drive the focus of our future work. Those residents who completed the community survey were asked to rank order what they believed to be the top priorities of the school district as we look to 2019 and beyond. Helping students with career planning, hiring and retaining quality staff, keeping technology up-to-date, increasing school safety and security and improving support services when students have difficulty learning ranked as top priorities by survey respondents. This information will direct the work of the school board and administrative team as we work on initiatives to improve student achievement and move the Tomah Area School District forward.

We firmly believe the taxpayers of the Tomah Area School District receive an excellent return on their investment in our educational system. The TASD’s school tax rate is lower than any neighboring district, and we consistently rank in the bottom 10 percent for spending. With the renewal of a $1.5 million operating referendum, we do not see that rank changing. Our appraisal of increased taxes, if the 2019 April operating referendum passes based on conservative estimates for enrollment, equalized values and state aid, is:

Year increase/decrease

2019-20 $2

2020-21 $12

2021-22 -$8

2022-23 $0

This results in an average of a $1.50 increase in taxes on a $100,000 property over the next four years.

In the next two months, representatives from the Tomah Area School District are willing to attend any community organization or business meeting to share information on the referendum. We want to share our story with you. If you would like to set up a presentation, please contact the district office at 608-374-7004. We want to thank all the residents of our district who completed the survey as we greatly value your input! Please feel free to check out all the survey results on the district website.

If you have any questions or comments about the information and opinions expressed in this edition of The School Bell, please contact Cindy Zahrte, district administrator, at cindyzahrte@tomah.education or 608-374-7002

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Cindy Zahrte is the superintendent of the Tomah Area School District.

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Tomah Journal editor

Steve Rundio is editor of the Tomah Journal. Contact him at 608-374-7785.

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