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LUHS Ad Hoc referendum meeting discusses consultants

Learns press box is ‘condemnable’

July 23, 2019 by Kayla Houp

The LUHS Ad Hoc Referendum Committee met July 17 to review candidates for referendum consultants, holding teleconferences with two consulting firms in preparation for the school’s upcoming referendum.

The first teleconference was with Michele Wiberg of PMA Financial Network, a financial advisory and financial services firm based out of Naperville, Ill. 

“Unlike some of our competitors, we do not only the financial advisory work, but also investment management and cash flow analysis,” Wiberg, senior vice president and managing director of PMA, said.

Wiberg works out of the firm’s Wisconsin office and has worked with the district in the past, specifically on bond financing for capital projects.

Wiberg said the firm doesn’t charge for the advisory work, but the only charge is if the referendum did result in a bond issue. 

“When you say that you would do analysis, what all does that encompass?” committee chair Shari Nimsgern said. 

Wiberg said they would look at a lot of the information the district’s already compiled, as well as what type of referendum the district needs and the different tax impacts. 

According to Wiberg, the timeline is dependent on when the district decides to host the referendum, and that the school was in a “perfect position” to start figuring out when would be the best time for the referendum.

Wiberg clarified they would assist in the process of determining how the district would put the referendum together, such was whether the referendum would be recurring or one-time.

With an April 2020 referendum, such as the committee had been discussing, Wiberg said there “wasn’t a lot of time to waste,” and they would need to pass the resolution to go to referendum no later than the end of January.

“A lot of communicating you’re gonna wanna do in your community,” Wiberg said.

Nimsgern asked if there was any benefit to having a referendum in April versus having one in November which would coincide with a presidential election.

“I just don’t want us to rush and overlook anything,” Nimsgern said. “If we have to have that resolution by January, that doesn’t give us a whole lot of time.”

Wiberg said there was logic to having an operating referendum in April in terms of planning staff, among other things.

The committee then spoke with Robert W. Baird & Co., a Milwaukee-based financial services firm.

“I’ve worked with a lot of districts in the state on various different projects, primarily referendums, primarily school building projects,” managing director Lisa Voisin said. “I do a lot of operational work and if we go down the path of going for an operating question we’ll use what we call a Baird Budget Forecast Model.”

The forecast model assists with budget building, analysis and processing, and costs approximately $2,750.

Like PMA, Baird has also worked with the district on a previous project.

Voisin clarified that the board was going down the path of an operational referendum.

Nimsgern asked what Baird’s fees schedule looked like, and at what point fees were charged and how much.

Voisin said it largely depended on how much work Baird put into the referendum, but the price varied from $3,000 to $7,500 depending on how often they travelled to the area.

In the discussion that followed, the committee determined many of the services the firms offered were the same, and that the primary difference was in cost.

Though PMA’s services are free, Baird’s fees wouldn’t exceed $10,000.

Neither firm actively promotes or produced promotional material for the referendum, such as designing campaign approaches or developing marketing materials on the district’s behalf.

“My take is the things that PMA would not do for us are things that Baird aren’t going to be able to do for us either, the bulk of them,” Kopp said. 

Nimsgern said PMA was already an option for the district without a charge.

Committee member Ed Schaub moved to recommend Baird not to exceed a cost of $10,000, with committee member Sarah Kemp seconding.

The board brought their recommendation to the full school board at its meeting Monday, July 22.


Following an hour of discussion regarding the referendum consultants, the board learned July 17 a capital expenditure item was much more serious that previously anticipated.

Previously, the committee had discussed several capital expenditure projects which ranged from constructing individual sport storage structures as well as renovating the outside bleachers, as well as how to proceed with the school’s press box.

“I was given the duty to find out what we can and cannot do the press box for upgrade, for a facelift,” building and grounds supervisor Mike Marasch said. 

According to Marasch, when he got the building inspector in the press box, the inspector said he “wouldn’t spend a penny on this building” and that the building should be “condemned.”

“He said it never passed inspection in the 1980s, and that he didn’t think it was every inspected,” Marasch said. “He said it would’ve never passed then and it’s not gonna pass now.”

Marasch said the recommendation was to condemn the entire building, but that the inspector wasn’t condemning it right now.

“What I hear Mike saying, we probably need to replace it next summer,” Kopp said.

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

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