A Record Year for Referenda

If it seems like every election contains at least one request from local school districts for more operational or building funds, that’s not an illusion. The Wisconsin Policy Forum reported last week that school referenda have become a fixture on ballots across the state over the last decade.

Locally, voters approved two requests from the Southern Door School District in the November election. The Gibraltar School District is also gearing up to put a question to voters in April 2023 for building funds, as is the Washington Island School District.

In addition to schools, other local governments such as municipalities and counties are also increasingly posing questions to voters — and often, finding approval.

County and municipal referenda passed in record numbers in 2022, while voters also approved the largest number of referenda for school districts’ operating budgets in more than two decades, according to the Wisconsin Policy Forum’s report.

In the November election, 104 referenda asked voters to allow their school district, municipality or county to exceed state limits on local property taxes. In unofficial vote tallies, 82 of them, or 78.8%, passed.

Eighteen of 23 municipal and county referenda (78.3%) were approved this November and an additional 11 passed in other elections throughout the year. The total of 29 such measures approved in 2022 was more than double any other year on record in Wisconsin.