New London passes schools referendum
Tax rate drops due to debt retirement
By Scott Bellile
The School District of New London’s $13 million facilities referendum passed, and property owners can expect their school taxes to drop by about 16 percent.
Sixty-one percent of voters living within the school district favored the referendum by a vote of 4,072 to 2,570 on Nov. 6, according to unofficial totals.
With the referendum passed, the estimated 2018-19 mill rate will be $7.73 per $1,000 of property value, which equates to $773 for a $100,000 home. This is one of the lowest mill rates in the area for a school district.
The mill rate will be $1.31 less than the 2017-18 rate of $9.16 per $1,000.
Homeowners will save approximately $140 per $100,000 of property this next year.
The mill rate would have decreased regardless of whether the referendum passed for two reasons. A 2014 referendum expired in April and the district finished paying for the 1999 construction of New London High School.
Had the referendum failed, the mill rate would have fallen further to $6.40.
School District of New London Superintendent Dennis Krueger thanked New London area residents for supporting the referendum.
“Investing in our district’s physical, functional, and educational needs certainly helps to ensure the long-term sustainability of educating our students in an appropriate environment,” Krueger said in an email. “As we look to optimize resources, while continuing to provide quality experiences for our children, we must invest in our community/schools.”
School board President Terry Wegner also thanked the electorate, adding he was pleased voter turnout was high and three-fifths of voters said yes.
“We were cautiously optimistic the referendum would pass but not certain of the amount of ‘yes’ votes,” Wegner said.
But district officials used feedback from community surveys and listening sessions to shape a referendum that Wegner said voters agreed they could support.
Scope of referendum
The 10-year referendum will collect $1.3 million per year from district residents to fund projects at the six main school buildings.
The upgrades primarily fall into the categories of maintenance, safety and security, and energy efficiency.
Some of the top-priority investments that referendum dollars would fund over the next decade include:
- Updating the roofs at New London High School, Lincoln Elementary School and Sugar Bush Elementary School.
- Replacing aging boilers at NLHS.
- Converting the four elementary schools to LED lighting.
- Improving HVAC systems at three elementary schools and New London Intermediate/Middle School.
- Upgrading fire alarms to the latest technology at all six schools.
- Configuring rooms as needed to meet today’s learning needs.
- Constructing an addition to Parkview Elementary School that contains restrooms, staff collaboration space and storage space.
Wegner shared which projects he believes are among the most vital.
“[R]eplacing our boilers in the near future is essential since we live in Wisconsin,” Wegner wrote in an email. “Keeping our roofs in good condition assures we don’t create greater problems because of leaks. The quicker we can accomplish the energy efficiency projects the faster we can get a return on these investments. I’ve heard many positive comments from citizens regarding the addition of bathrooms and functional space at Parkview School.”
Krueger was not ready to say which projects will occur first. The district will first consult with outside sources to determine how to carry out its projects in the most cost-efficient manner, he said.
“We believe that some of the projects would begin during the summer of 2019 or possibly even earlier,” Krueger said. “We are committed to keeping the community informed of the projects and the associated expenditures.”
In total, the school district hopes to tackle not $13 million, but $21 million in facilities projects between 2019 and 2028.
The $8 million difference would be collected through the district’s general operating budget, cost savings from the energy efficiency upgrades, and a new capital projects fund that the district can begin tapping into in 2020.
Impact on district’s budget
On Oct. 22, the New London School Board approved two separate 2018-19 school year budgets, one contingent upon the referendum passing and the other upon it failing.
Because the referendum passed, the budget totals $31.5 million.
Had the referendum failed, the budget would have been $1.3 million less, at $30.2 million.
Here are specifics on the 2018-19 district budget:
- The general operations levy – which is the total in taxes imposed by the district – is $8.7 million.
- State general aid increases by just over $100,000 to $15.4 million.
- Spending and revenues each total about $33.6 million this year. Spending is about $37,000 higher than revenues. Both spending and revenues decrease about 2 percent from last year.
- District-wide property value increases 1.2 percent.
- Property taxes will decrease 16 percent.
- School district enrollment for the 2018-19 year is 2,281 students, down 24 from last year.
Referendum votes by municipality
- New London: 1,274-700.
- Town of Bear Creek: 2-0.
- Town of Caledonia: 487-395.
- Town of Fremont: 3-7.
- Town of Lebanon: 405-231.
- Town of Mukwa: 907-475.
- New London: 320-200.
- Town of Dale: 328-296.
- Town of Deer Creek: 7-5.
- Town of Hortonia: 71-39.
- Town of Liberty: 82-64.
- Town of Maple Creek: 152-106.
- Town of Winchester: 27-43.
- Town of Wolf River: 7-9.
This article was edited on Nov. 12 to correct the school district’s plans for the addition at Parkview Elementary School. The story previously stated new 4-year-old kindergarten and special education classrooms would be part of the addition. Although those were one discussed as a possibility, they will no longer be part of the addition.