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The La Crosse School District is asking voters Tuesday to extend an expiring $4.175 million levy override another five years, which officials say would allow them to maintain current funding levels.

Randy Nelson mug

Nelson

If approved, the referendum would authorize the district to exceed the state-imposed levy limit by $4.175 million each year beginning July 1, 2019, through June 2024. It would extend a levy override first authorized in a September 2004 referendum on $3.6 million annual and which was renewed in 2008 and 2014 at $4.175 million, with 68 percent and 67 percent of the vote, respectively.

“What our board is trying to do is get out in front of this particular referendum in advance, to see if this is something our community can continue to support,” Superintendent Randy Nelson said.

Patty Sprang, the executive director of business services, said the referendum is a good tool for planning, particularly with a five-year term that takes the district through two biennial state budget terms.

“We are looking at the future and trying to plan. We don’t know what the state budget is going to be bringing in 2019, ’20 and going forward,” Sprang said.

Nelson estimated the referendum amounts to 5 percent of the school district’s budget and said the funds go toward items such as technology programs, capital maintenance and school safety measures, as well as school programming.

“We’ve used these funds in the past to do a lot of things. It has allowed us to address, for instance, the front entryways to all of our schools,” Nelson said.

In the past few years, the district has renovated the entrances to the buildings and added an audio and video check-in system to make them more secure.

“That really has put us in a spot where there are some things with roof and carpeting, and we really ought to be doing some catch-up there,” Nelson said.

Previous referendums also supported the district’s technology programs, such as providing high school students with laptops and middle-schoolers with iPads. Nelson said passing the referendum would let the district move forward with the third phase of its technology plan, which would update classroom technology such LCD projectors, document cameras and whiteboards.

“We’re going to be in the process of going through classroom by classroom and making sure the infrastructure of the classroom is ready to go,” Nelson said.

The majority of the referendum funds go toward educational programs and staff to keep class sizes small for the district’s youngest students. Should the public turn down the referendum, the district would need to reprioritize and rework its budget, which could lead to cuts to programming and staffing.

“We are asking for the same amount to continue the projects and initiatives we have in place for our students,” Sprang said.

A yes vote would not lead to any additional debt for the district.

Tax-wise, a no-vote would save the owners of a $100,000 home $96 per year in taxes, while approval would keep the school district’s tax rate steady.

“There are a lot of variables that can impact the final tax that our board approves in October, but the intent here is to keep it at the same level so as to have a minimal impact on taxes,” Nelson said.

Nelson was hopeful voters will continue to support the district, saying he was confident the school district did a good job getting a fair, factual message out to local residents.

“It’s our taxpayers who will have to decide on Tuesday, yea or nay, whether it’s something they can continue to support,” Nelson said.

In the past, taxpayers have shown their support for the district, something school officials are grateful for.

“To me, it’s a real testament to our community and how much they care about the children and how much they care about their public schools. The value they place on their public schools is tremendous,” Nelson said.

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City government reporter

Jourdan Vian is a reporter and columnist covering local government and city issues for the La Crosse Tribune. You can contact her at 608-791-8218.

(6) comments

allcav

I'm used to taxes going up, but not staying the same, as this supposedly would. We're retired and haven't had kids in school for many years, but we value our schools nonetheless. Voting yes to pay it forward.

canman

The school board did this referendum before and should have had time to clean up the budget so it wouldn’t be asked again. Either the board is incompetent or they believe all the numbers the administration is giving them. The board needs to review expenses LINE by LINE, not just blanket approve of requests. There is nothing wrong with not having new buildings, there is plenty wrong with wasting taxpayers money.

Rickwillenberg

I do not support the Lax residents approving this in the referendum. The school Board just posted today 3/28/18 in the local paper. The vote is next week. Do not extend the four plus million dollars. This is not being responsible at this point Lax taxpayer dollars. Good education is important but the line must be held on expenditure. Voodo econ must not be approved in this referendum.

let it go

You are right. Education is very important. So to educate some people let's look back. We build a new school and to save money and then turn around and want to buy the TCI building for office space. People are leaving the district or going to other districts because they see the children being educated not patrolled by SRO. The School District of Lacrosse is wasteful in how it spends the money it gets, hires people who do not live in or go to the school district, and then expect tax payers to flip the bill. ACCOUNTABLILITY should be their new motto, not ACCESSIBILITY.

union conservative

Personally I feel every time some tries to save the taxpayers money someone else takes it. An example would be in the form of health insurance deductibles and premiums. My raise at work was $720 over the course of a year but my deductible went up $2200 and part no fees doubled per month. So I say vote for the referendums as education isimportant.

LaCrosseTaxPayer

We all know the 4 million will grow on the money tree and not cost the tax payers anything!!
The school board suckered the tax payers last time and now they think they will try it again!
Put the 4 mil back into the taxpayers’ pockets and lower our taxes and do your job and live within your budget!!!!!!!!!!!!

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