I just received mail from Sevastopol School District informing me of two referendum items to be voted upon in the upcoming election: $2,000,000 operating referendum, and $25,100,000 building referendum.
As an educator/teacher for 35 years, I totally support education. I believe that Wisconsin, and in particular, Sevastopol, do a fantastic job of educating our students and should be applauded. In regard to the two above referendums, I think there are some important items voters need to consider when evaluating these proposals.
Using the mil rate as a comparison for school funding is misleading. It states the mil rate of $5.54 for Sevastopol is $4 less than the state average, and much lower than the Sturgeon Bay rate of $10.61. The reason for this wide discrepancy is not the frugalism of Sevastopol, but is due the huge tax base on non-resident/seasonal property owners that pay taxes. That’s why Gibraltar’s mil rate is almost 50 percent less than Sevastopol. Their tax base is much higher than Sevastopol’s and thus the mil rate can be much lower. A better tax comparison would be per pupil spending. Wisconsin and the national average spending per pupil are $11,375 and $11,392 respectively. Sevastopol: $16,577. Local taxpayers are paying more than $5,000 per student above state and federal averages.
It is also stated in the referendum informational packet that the yearly cost of the $2,000,000 referendum on a $300,000 home is $99, and the yearly cost of the $25,100,000 referendum is $360. That is only for the first year. If property values go up, so do the taxes. If a $300,000 home doubles in value in 10 years, the taxes also double from $360 to $720. Remember, this is in addition to the taxes you are already paying the school district.
Sevastopol has 612 students. This is down from peak years in the 1990s. There have been discussions of consolidating with other districts. If enrollment flat-lined or started to drop, and it was determined that consolidation was necessary in 5, 10 or 15 years, what happens to the new school? The loan would still have to be paid on a abandoned and vacant property in addition to paying taxes to the new combined district.
We need more state funding and less local taxation for our schools. In the past few years we have seen the effect of less state funding. Sevastopol has asked for operational referendums in 2008, 2011, 2013, 2015, and now 2018. Most school districts in the area are asking for referendums to fund education to make up for state cuts. It’s time to get the state to do its share of the funding and stop shifting state taxes to the local level.