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LUHS ad hoc referendum committee moves referendum planning forward

October 01, 2019 by Kayla Houp

The Lakeland Union High School ad hoc referendum committee took initial steps on Sept. 23 to finalize a referendum question, talking points, amount, and date for the full school board’s consideration regarding the district’s potential referendum.

Over the course of an hour, the committee reviewed two documents containing five years of data, one looking back five years with the other a five-year forecast, as well as a five-year capital projection.

During its discussion, the committee went over some items on its five-year capital projection document and how much money to put into them, one of which being the press box. Initially, the committee had the press box project listed under the 2022-2023 school year at $100,000, but decided to raise it to $200,000 and move it forward in the timeline.

“If we bring that up by $100,000, and you go back and average it in, it’s not going to change the amount for referendum much,” board member Barry Seidel said.

“The bottom line is we can’t know, precisely, exactly, what all these numbers are going to be,” committee member Sarah Kemp said. “We have to go with estimates, we have to go forward. We have to decide on a question. We have to decide on a date. So we have to, at some point, make some decisions.”

Proposed question and amount

The committee discussed how the mill rate, and subsequent tax implications, could be impacted based on what amount the board decided on when it’s brought to the full school board.

Seidel mentioned a potential $.17 in the mill rate that would amount to $17 per $100,000 of value on a home.

“The $17 per $100,000 to raise a million dollars. $2 million is $34. $3 million is $51. So, if you’re in a $200,000 house, now you just went past that $100 threshold that a lot of people would get uncomfortable with,” Seidel said. “So, if from a standpoint of public tolerance you want to keep it under that, you know then we should be looking at $2.7 to $2.8 million.”

Seidel said it was starting to “frame itself” between $2.5 million and $3 million on a recurring basis.

According to business and finance manager Greg Kopp, factoring in special education costs and the charter school could push that amount closer to $3 million.

“I think it’s reasonable and honest to our constituents that, based on the accelerated cost of special ed, IEP, goals, if you will. Based on that acceleration  in the past five years, that’s going to continue to go up,” district administrator and curriculum director Rob Way said.

According to the Department of Public Instruction’s website, the LUHS school district had a mill rate of $1.82 for the 2018-2019 school year.

Seidel said the $.17 increase was “close,” but that more information was needed before a final decision was made.

“So, if you added $17, it would take it up to $199 for a $100,000 house, total,” Seidel said.

No amount has been finalized yet, but the committee discussed potentially setting the amount at $2.8 million pending more research and information to be brought back at the committee’s next meeting.

The committee also briefly discussed the potential question to bring to the board in October.

Way clarified that the amount was to help maintain the fund balance.

According to Seidel, the board has until November to approve the motion to go to referendum, as well as the amount and referendum date.

“This is an operating referendum. This is us telling the people what we need. There’s really not a lot of choice in it,” Seidel said. “We either do this, or we’re going to be making cuts, we’re going to be reducing the size of our program somehow.”

Talking points

One point the committee addressed during its conversation regarding building talking points for public materials was bringing up the programs the school offered that the committee felt contributed to the school’s graduation rate as well as the overall well-being of the school.

“Here are things we want to maintain, we want to thrive with these wonderful programs,” Way said.

“Our kids are entering into something that a job hasn’t even been created yet, but we need to make sure that we are giving them the most advanced education possible so that they are ready to hit that market prepared to take on these new positions,” board member Shari Nimsgern said. 

“That’s why we’re calling this an operating referendum. There’s not a capital investment referendum,” Seidel said.

Seidel said it was the operating expenses that had been reducing the fund balance rather than capital investments.

Kemp said they could make their recommendations for the question, amount, and date at the October school board following more discussion at the committee’s next meeting Oct. 9.

Kayla Houp may be reached via email at [email protected] com.


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