School Board Members, Administrators Make Case Against Referendum Restrictions

School board members, district administrators, business officials and others came to the Capitol June 15 to testify at concurrent Senate and Assembly public hearings on bills that are part of an overall package that would severely restrict the ability of school districts to go to referendum and gain additional revenue authority.

The Assembly Education Committee, chaired by Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt (R-Fond du Lac), heard three of the bills and the Senate Government Operations Committee, chaired by Sen. Duey Stroebel (R-Saukville), heard two.  The overall theme of testimony presented by school leaders was these bills represent unwanted and unnecessary state intrusion and micromanagement into how local school board conduct their fiscal affairs.  In addition, a case was made that these bills will have serious negative consequences for many school districts, including many small, rural districts experiencing declining enrollment.

While it was a challenge to testify at two hearings on the same bills that overlapped, Sen. Stroebel’s staff members were, to their credit, flexible and worked with the WASB GR staff to arrange for our members to testify at both hearings.

WASB also testified in both committees in opposition to all of the bills, which would do the following:

  • eliminate recurring referendums to exceed the revenue limits, limit the duration of non-recurring referendums to exceed the revenue limits to five-years, and retroactively take away a district’s revenue authority from an already approved recurring referendum after five years (see previous post);
  • require school boards to hold school referendums only in conjunction with the April Spring election and November general election; and
  • limit when school boards could vote on initial resolutions to authorize borrowing referendums or resolutions to authorize a referendum to exceed revenue limits and attempt to transfer board powers in these areas to the annual meeting.  The intent of the latter bill is to allow school districts to adopt only one resolution per year.

You can view our testimony: Assembly Bill 282/Senate Bill 191; Assembly Bill 268/Senate Bill 195; Assembly Bill 269

We would like to thank and recognize the school board members who took the time to testify on these bills at the Capitol. They are (pictured): Brenda Warren, President, Green Bay Area School Board;  Steve Zach, President, Oregon School Board; Doug Mering, Vice President, Baraboo School Board; and Brett Hyde, Vice-President, Muskego-Norway School Board and WASB Region 11  Director; and (not pictured) Jim Bowman, Clerk, Appleton School Board.

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