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School District of Belleville Referendum Frequently Asked Questions
Frequently Asked Questions are compiled to help voters understand the challenges the School District of Belleville faces and the proposed facilities referendum solutions.
Q: Why did the board vote to place a referendum question on the November 8th ballot?
A: The School District of Belleville has a number of facility needs that should be addressed now. Despite the fact that the Board and the District’s staff have done what they can to increase building security over the years, our current facilities lack many of the modern security practices that are now common in Wisconsin schools.
Moreover, our buildings, while well-maintained, have old heating and ventilation systems and inefficient single-pane windows, and, as a result, they are expensive to run and waste taxpayers’ money.
Finally, the District’s facilities do not support modern learning. As education changes, modern learning has come to include such things as hands-on projects and small group activities. Therefore, modern classrooms that allow for the use of new best practices in teaching and learning are flexible spaces that include larger classrooms, desks and chairs that can be easily moved, and space that can be quickly changed to meet the needs of students and their learning.
Ultimately, while our schools have served students of the Belleville area for years, the District will struggle to fully implement new educational best practices with its current facilities. This is especially true at the current Intermediate School and Elementary School, which were both originally built in the 1950s.
Q: What process was used by the board to assess and prioritize its needs and find a solution?
A: The District created a sound process in an effort to engage the entire community to find a solution to address these needs. The process began in 2006 with the completion of a formal professional assessment on all District buildings. In 2012, the District completed a facilities study on the Intermediate School. The process continued in 2014, when the Board created a study committee tasked with considering the various needs of the District and making a formal determination about whether it should move forward with its planning efforts.
Then, last year, the Board created the Ad-Hoc Educational and Facilities Planning Committee based on the work and the recommendation of the study committee; this Ad-Hoc Educational and Facilities Planning Committee was, again, open to all community members. The committee first convened last fall, and it met monthly over the school year to prioritize the District’s needs, consider the District’s financial situation, review options presented by the District’s architect and conduct a community survey.
The committee was comprised of nearly 50 participants, including district residents, staff, retired staff, parents, non-parents, business representatives and students. Selected members of the committee presented the group’s final report to the Board on June 29th. Information about this process, including all reports, agendas, and meeting minutes, is posted on the District’s website.
Q: When was the last time the district brought a referendum to voters?
A: The last district referendum was held 21 years ago for the high school addition.
Q: What work will be done if the referendum passes?
A: If passed, the referendum would upgrade classrooms and other learning spaces to better support teaching and learning; secure building entrances; add security cameras; upgrade fire alarms; add separate bus and parent drop-off and pick-up areas to increase safety; address necessary plumbing, roofing, electrical, heating, and ventilation needs; and increase long-term efficiency by consolidating school buildings.
Q: What will happen to the elementary school if the referendum passes?
A: The District intends to close and seek to sell the existing Elementary School after students move into the renovated Intermediate School. The Board of Education will discuss viable options after a successful referendum.
Q: How are the District-wide needs being addressed in this referendum?
A: LEARNING SPACES: Upgrades to better support teaching and learning
- Addition including classrooms and cafeteria at the Intermediate School
- Learning space enhancements including flooring, lighting, cabinetry, and a larger library at the Intermediate School
- Dedicated spaces for special services at the Intermediate School
- Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) expansion at the Middle/High School
- Fitness/Weight room expansion at the Middle/High School
SAFETY & SECURITY: Secure entrances, separation of bus and parent drop off/pick up, security cameras, and fire alarms
- Site improvements to separate bus and parent drop-off/pick-up areas at the Intermediate School
- Minor renovation to accommodate secure entrance at the Middle/High School
- Site and safety improvements at the Middle/High School
INFRASTRUCTURE & BUILDING SYSTEMS: Plumbing, HVAC, electrical, technology wiring, roofing, and windows/doors
- Highest priority infrastructure upgrades including plumbing, HVAC, electrical, technology wiring, roofs, and windows/doors
- Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) upgrades including a lift and door hardware at the Intermediate School
- Highest priority infrastructure upgrades including roof and lighting at the Middle/High School
- ADA upgrades including a lift and door hardware at the Middle/High School
BUILDING CONSOLIDATION: Long-term efficiency, grade reconfiguration, and avoidance of deferred maintenance at elementary school
- Close and seek to sell the Elementary School
- Move Early Childhood - 1st grade to Intermediate School
- Change grade configuration from 2nd - 6th grade to Early Childhood - 6th grade
Q: What is the exact language that will be on the ballot?
A: The below image is what the ballot will look like on November 8th and includes the exact language that will be on the ballot.
Q: What is the tax impact of the referendum if it passes?
A: The cost of the referendum will not exceed $20.75 million and thus will have an estimated tax levy increase of $.99 for every $1,000 of property value. The portion of our Existing Debt Levy related to the High School was paid off this year. This will result in a reduction of the total Existing Debt Levy in 2016-17. Municipal borrowing interest rates are also near historical lows. The Operating portion of our Total School Levy Tax Rate will be lower than last year due to an increase in state funding and property value growth over 3% in 2016. The reduction in the Existing Debt Levy, along with the historically low interest rates, provide the District an opportunity to pay for long-term facility needs while minimizing the increase in your school taxes.
Q: What if the project is more expensive than anticipated?
A: The referendum question states that the total amount that can be borrowe dfor the projects noted is $20.75 million. This is a "do not exceed" number. The Board and its architects and construction firm have done a tremendous amount of work to anticipate all possible needs so that the work can be done at or under $20.75 million. If there is money left over, the Board has said that it will address other high priority items that are not currently a part of the project list.
Q: Where can I get more information about the referendum?
A: More information about the referendum, including the work of the Ad Hoc Educational and Facilities Planning Committee, can be found on the district's website.