Letter to the editor: Reader advocates approving school district referendum
I am writing to urge citizens of Marshfield to support Marshfield School District’s operational referendum in November.
As the former editor and reporter for Hub City Times, I spent many hours covering the Marshfield School District. Let me say that I, like many of you, have had issues with the transparency and communication of the Marshfield School District. I have not been pleased with the way the district has communicated, and I think that must be improved.
However, it is crucial to separate feelings toward district leadership from the effect a failed referendum would have. A failed referendum would be devastating to both our teachers and our children.
Before discussing why the referendum needs to pass, a little history is helpful. The Marshfield School District goes to referendum so often because of the existence of revenue caps, which were established by the Tommy Thompson administration and limit how much each district can collect in tax revenue each year. The caps are based on whatever each individual district spent the year the caps were established, and the Marshfield School District happened to have a low-spending year at the time.
Therefore, the district has been locked into a restrictive revenue cap with limited ability to raise tax revenue unless a referendum is passed. In fact, absent referendum dollars, the Marshfield School District would have the lowest tax rate of 20 surrounding districts. Even with referendum funds, Marshfield School District still has one of the lowest area tax rates.
Now, let us consider what the proposed referendum, which would raise an additional $12 million over four years, means to the district and taxpayers. The owner of a $100,000 home would see his or her tax rate increase by $25 a year if the new referendum were to pass. We are basically talking about a taxpayer sacrificing one lunch or dinner out for the year to help fund schools.
What do taxpayers get for their money? They get a nationally recognized high school, which led area districts in composite ACT score in 2014-2015; one of the top advanced placement programs in the state of Wisconsin, which annually saves students hundreds of thousands of dollars on future college expenses; technical education courses, which help prepare students for entering the work force directly out of high school; a wide selection of quality elementary schools; and a recently renovated middle school.
Our great schools are a true engine of the local economy. People who want to move their families to Marshfield and work in local manufacturing, the medical complex, or any other industry are attracted by great schools.
There are other communities surrounding us that offer more quality of life options like a better diversity of restaurants, bodies of water, or four-year universities. If we decide not to fund our schools, we effectively erase one of the biggest reasons to come to and raise a family in Marshfield.
Aside from being important to the local economy, supporting this referendum is about having pride in your community. We have some of the best schools in the state, and we ought to be very proud of that. Supporting this referendum ultimately supports children and the level of opportunity they will have to learn and grow.
If the referendum fails, the consequences will be serious, and they will impact you, your neighbor, and our community’s children.
Cuts could include one full-time administration position, elementary teacher assistant positions, custodial staff, the school forest coordinator, the driver’s education program, a full-time school social worker, the French foreign language program, changing middle school sports to strictly intramural, reducing the budget for curriculum, cuts to the technology budget, vocational education, and the list goes on. A failed referendum could also mean an increase in student fees.
People will lose jobs if we do not support this referendum, our children will have fewer options and a decrease in the quality of their education, and the local economy will suffer as our schools will not be as attractive to those considering a move to the Marshfield area, which all seems like a pretty big gamble to save $25.
For more information on the referendum, visit marshfieldschools.org.