The Bonduel School District is less than a week away from holding their second school referendum in four months, with the hopes of authorizing the district to exceed its revenue limit for up to $900,000 on a non-recurring basis annually for the next three school years.
In total, the district would borrow $2.7 million for the purposes of its operational needs.
Julie Felhofer and Shawn Thorne are a part of the Bonduel Area Action Committee, whose goal is to help mobilize voters in the village. They believe after failing the first time, it got the attention of residents.
“After the first referendum failed, there was turnout to the board meetings of over 150-200 community members that were disappointed in the vote ‘no’ and just wanted to see it go again,” Felhofer said.
Thorne added, “I think a lot of the people thought the referendum was just going to pass and there was a lot of ‘yes’ votes that didn’t come out because they thought it was just going to pass.”
The referendum failed on April 4 by a final tally of 708 ‘No’ votes to 602 ‘Yes’ votes. Thorne makes the argument that because state funding has been pulled back over recent years, the district has no choice.
“Now we’re finally to a point where our leaders can only do so much at the school district,” he said. At some point, we need to ask for help from the community.”
So where would this referendum money be put towards? $150,000 is already included from the Technology Referendum approved by voters in 2013.
New funds would be used to hire three full-time elementary school teachers, one full-time middle school teacher, student transportation, among other maintenance costs, but Thorne contends the cuts needed if the vote fails would be drastic.
Options if it were to fail would be to cut athletic programs, art reduction and even implement a four-day school week, but the effects ripple beyond just the district.
“To me if this referendum fails, it’s going to hamper our ability to bring in new growth in terms of home builds and it’s going to deter businesses,” Thorne stated. “I think we have an opportunity to let not just our own community, but surrounding communities know that Bonduel cares. We want a successful school.”
Felhofer acknowledged that community members would have to take on a tax increase, but the makes the case that the money being borrowed remains in the village. Current estimates show there would be about $160 increase for every $100,000 property value.
“The money stays right here in the Bonduel community, so it’s not an increase in taxes where our taxes could be going to Milwaukee schools, or Madison schools, or even up to Rhinelander,” she explained. “Every dollar spent will be right here in the community and for the kids. One thing I would like to add is the people that don’t know how well our schools are doing. Our elementary school has increased to the top. We significantly exceed expectations in that category.”
Meanwhile, the Bonduel Middle and High School meet expectations, leading to the district rated as exceeding expectations, according to the Department of Public Instruction.
Overall, the Bonduel Area Action Committee has been going door-to-door encouraging those to get out and vote on Tuesday and the feedback they’ve received has Thorne, Felhofer and others encouraged, but one of their main goals is ensuring voters are at least informed when they hit the polls on Tuesday.
Polls are open from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. and more information regarding the referendum can be found by visiting the Bonduel Area Action Committee Facebook page, or by logging on to BonduelAreaActionCommittee.com