Florence School plans referendum vote

FLORENCE, Wis. – The Florence School Board plans to ask voters for a three-year, $900,000 referendum in the November election.

The plan was tentatively approved at a referendum committee meeting Monday. Final approval of the legal document will come at a board meeting on Aug. 9.

The district’s current five-year referendum will end after the 2014-15 school year.

The estimated mileage rate would be about 8.66 the first year, 8.56 the second and 7.88 the final year, less than the current mill rate, estimated at 9.03.

On a $50,000 house the estimated tax would drop from $451.50 to $433 in 2015-16.

District Administrator Ben Niehaus recommended going for the three-year referendum for several reasons. One was they would know better what the state would be doing for school funding. He said if the district went for a five-year referendum and in the third year, funding from the state changed dramatically, the district would be locked in for two more years.

Niehaus also pointed out that the district would have its debts paid off in 2017-18 school year. “That would be a good time to look at things and re-access,” he said.

Most members of the board were in favor of a three-year, $900,000 referendum.

Two board members felt the district should go for $1 million, and under-levy if they didn’t need that much.

Linda Opsahl wanted the board to go for five years because she worried about expenses not in the budget.

Ron Yadro was also worried about how much the fund balance drops off after the third year of a three-year referendum.

Both voted yes after Opsahl’s motion for a three-year, $1 million referendum failed by a 2-4 vote.

If history repeats itself, and the taxpayers approve $900,000, the tax rates decrease, board member Jim Gehlhoff said.

Don Dumke said that as a board member he supported a three-year, $900,000 referendum because he wanted to be fiscally responsible.

But as a taxpayer and parent, he said would have supported a 10-year one because there is a lot of misconception about the stability of the district.

“There is no more opportunistic time to live in Florence and buy property in Florence,” he said.

Niehaus told the board they did a great job of keeping past referendums under levied. “We keep finding creative ways of decreasing or flatlining expenditures,” he said.

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