Florence School planning referendum



Staff Writer

FLORENCE, Wis. – The Florence School District will be going for its third referendum in the fall, but the board is still undecided as to the length and amount.

District voters narrowly passed a referendum for five years in 2009, which will expire after the 2014-15 school year. A five-year referendum was approved prior to that in 2005.

The district is facing about $300,000 in debts for the next two years, according to preliminary figures presented at a special meeting Tuesday. After the referendum expires the debt will increase to more than $1.5 million in 2015-16.

Lisa Voisin, a financial analyst with Robert W. Baird Co. in Milwaukee, presented the figures using a budget forecast model developed by the company. The district has used the model to help forecast how the school’s budgets will look four to five years in the future.

The model used the figure of $7,200,750 for expenses for the years 2015-16, 2016-17 and 2017-18.

Without a referendum the district will see projected deficits of about $1.5 million in 2015-16, $1.6 million in 2017-18 and $1.750 million in 2018-19, the last year used in the model.

With a referendum of $1 million for three years, the district’s projected deficits drop to $500,000 the first year, $640,000 in 2016-17 and $685,000 in $685,000 in 2017-18

District Administrator Ben Niehaus said it will be difficult to hold expenses to $7.2 million.

“That’s going to be our charge and challenge,” Niehaus said. “We’re looking at other things. How we’re going to do that, I don’t know. We have to get to a point where that part in the red is not in the red.”

The district has been losing revenue each year because of declining enrollment.

During the last five years of the referendum, the district underlevied the amount they were eligible to levy, feeling if they didn’t need it wouldn’t take the full amount from the taxpayers.

Voisin felt this was a mistake. “I don’t think you should underlevy.” She said the district is holding the line on expenses, but revenues are declining.

Currently the district has a fund balance that is 62.31 percent of the budget, but using money from the fund balance to pay the deficits is projected to bring the fund balance to a negative amount by 2017-18 without a referendum. With a referendum of $1 million, it would be at about 32 percent.

School funding in the state in general is a problem.

“We’re cut closer to the bone with each passing year,” Niehaus said. “If you pass a five-year referendum and they cut more per student at the state, you could still be short. It’s more difficult to project.”

The date for the referendum would likely be on Nov. 4.

Marguerite Lanthier’s e-mail address is mlanthier@ironmountaindailynews.com.