Third Time the Charm?

Chuck Bretl says he is feeling a positive vibe about the Southern Door School District’s $390,000 referendum going to district voters in the Nov. 4 election.

“I’m getting a more positive sense than the last times we’ve been through this,” said Bretl, Southern Door school board president.

In 2011, a two-year $1.25 million referendum was defeated by voters 59.5 percent to 40.5 percent. A three-year, $3.08 million referendum was rejected in April 2013 by a slightly smaller margin, 59.3 percent to 40.7.

“Hopefully, people are more cognizant of the situation we’re in and what’s at stake,” Bretl said.

The school board is helping the community become aware of what is at stake for the district by holding a series of educational forums in affected municipalities and at the school throughout the month. At its Sept. 22 meeting, the board detailed just what cuts will have to be made should the referendum fail, including reduction of staff in the custodial/maintenance, transportation, clerical and/or administrative areas; reduction of costs in athletics through possible consolidation or elimination of specific sports; reduction of staffing in art, music and physical education; reduction of middle school staffing in family consumer education, health and technology education, agriculture, computer applications, ecology and extended studies; and reduction of high school staffing in agriculture, business education, family consumer education, Spanish, technology education and electives in core areas.

“This is a definite possibility of what’s going to happen if things don’t go our way. Hopefully, we can get this message across and say, this is big time now. The worst thing I had to do [on Sept. 22] was announce those cuts and go public with that,” Bretl said. “I told one teacher who has been there for quite a few years, that is one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. Being on the board now for almost 15 years, trust me, it didn’t come easy. I think people are seriously taking this to heart and that this really could turn the tables of what Southern Door is all about, and I don’t think anyone wants that in our community.”

Bretl said a fellow board member recently mentioned that the community is already giving 100 percent. The referendum would cost taxpayers another $37 on a $100,000 home.

“Yes they are,” Bretl said. “Unfortunately, the way the state runs its funding formula and us being a land rich district, no big manufacturing, no big tax base except for land, the burden does fall back on the taxpayers. It’s tough. I’m a landowner. I’m a taxpayer. It’s not an easy pill to swallow. Nobody wants to see their taxes go up. But I personally do not want to see our school denied. How do we balance it out? That’s the $390,000 question. Dig a little deeper, 105 percent and 110 percent, whatever it turns out to be. Hopefully, the $37 on a $100,000 home investment, people can see clear to do that. You own a $200,000 house, that’s $74. That’s not even a night out anymore for a dinner and a movie. When you put it in comparisons like that, hopefully people will realize it’s an investment in our kids’ futures, property values, and a whole cycle of things going on. Hopefully, we can get that message out there.

“I’m hoping that the positive vibe continues,” Bretl continued. “If people have questions or concerns, I hope they talk to someone in the know and not just get the scuttlebutt that’s going around, because misinformation is not a good thing at all. That can do a whole lot more harm.”