Suring School Board OKs referendum parameters

Voters will be asked for permission to exceed state limits by $900,000
Warren Bluhm
Oconto County Times Herald Editor

SURING — Taxpayers in the Suring School District in April will be asked to renew the commitment made in 2015 allowing the district to exceed state-imposed revenue limits.

During their regular monthly meeting, the school board approved asking taxpayers for permission to go over the limit by $900,000 a year for another five years.

A draft of the question, to be approved in January, says the money would go toward “operation and maintenance costs, upgrades and enhancements to facilities and equipment, technology and curriculum and technical education.”

Five years ago, more than 60% of local voters approved exceeding the limits by $750,000 yearly through the 2020-21 school year. A 2012 referendum also garnered overwhelming support.

After a special meeting Dec. 2 to review the school’s operating and infrastructure needs, the board came back at last week’s regular meeting and approved the new referendum for the April 7 election.

Board member Dennis Piepkorn made the motion to go with the higher range of Superintendent Kelly Casper’s recommendation, which was to ask between $800,000 and $900,000 a year.

“She’s been doing all the work on it. She knows what we need,” Piepkorn said.

The board reviewed a spreadsheet that showed the impact on the mill rate of going over the limit by $900,000 is “literally cents” per $1,000 of equalized valuation compared to $850,000, board member Amanda Seibert said.

“That $50,000 would go a long way for just a few cents for the taxpayer,” Seibert said.

Board member Wendy Wozniak said she has heard some concerns from community members.

“The last referendum, people saw an end in five years, and they were very positive about the referendum. I didn’t hear too many opposing it,” Wozniak said. “This time … I think there’s a concern that this is going to be an indefinite thing, and there’s not going to be an end to it.”

Casper said schools around the state have found success asking for taxpayers’ help on this “non-recurring” basis as opposed to a permanent increase.

Some larger districts have gone back to the voters every two or three years, she added.

“They’re doing that because they’re not sure that they can survive on that dollar amount, whereas we have, knock on wood, what we did five years ago has served us well,” Casper said.

As long as the state maintains the existing school funding formula, regular referendums will probably be a fact of life, she said.

“Until something changes with our revenue worksheet, you’re going to see this … you’ll see these school districts do this again and again and again until that formula gets changed. That’s what you have to do.”

Gillett, Lena and Oconto Falls are also among school districts currently exceeding the state-imposed limits with voters’ approval.