In July, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction announced an estimated $5,539,000 decrease in State Funding for Madison Metro Public Schools. However, this November, Madison voters will decide on two referenda that would put $350 million into their public schools.
The more expensive referendum of $317 million, would provide building improvements to Madison’s four comprehensive high schools, redesign Hoyt School to house Capital High School, and build a new elementary school attached to Badger Rock Middle School while also buying the land and existing building.
The cost of this referendum for taxpayers is $50 per $100,000 of property value per year for the next 22 years. School Board President Gloria Reyes says that the school board considered pulling the referenda in light of the pandemic, but ultimately decided the district couldn’t wait. “We recognize the additional financial burden that we are asking the community to take on at this time, but we believe we must take this step now as we could be facing a never before seen reduction of state revenue authority,” says Reyes. “This is a prudent time to invest with historically low interest rates, competitive construction prices, and a potential for long-term higher spending on maintenance should issues needing addressing need to be deferred. We believe the return on investments could be significant.”
The second referendum will increase operating funds incrementally each year and ultimately raise the city’s limit on how much it can collect in property taxes. That would be an incremental increase of $80 per year, on average, for a total of $33 million dollars over 4 years. That money will go to keep teaching jobs, attract more teachers of color to the district, and combat funding shortages caused by the pandemic.
Speaking to WORT last week, Superintendent Carlton Jenkins says without the referendum, recently hired staff will be laid off. “They will be reduced during this whole part of trying to balance our budget,” he says. “I do believe responsibly, whatever we are given, whatever we are given, we’re to live within our budget, but the budget we have right now doesn’t fit.”
Ahead of the November election, Madison School District will hold virtual public informational sessions over this week and next. A schedule and links to upcoming sessions can be found here.