Northland Pines School District voters will go to the polls next Tuesday, Feb. 19, for a referendum that if approved would allow the school board to exceed the state-mandated revenue limit by $4.6 million each of the next three years.

If passed, the referendum dollars would replace the current operating referendum amount, which was passed in 2016 for $3.9 million per year.

District Administrator Scott Foster said the current $3.9 million referendum amount will expire at the end of the 2018-’19 school year.

Polls across the district will be open at municipal buildings from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. next Tuesday, the scheduled date for the primary election.

The question on the ballot will read as follows: “Shall the Northland Pines School District be authorized to exceed state revenue limits by $4.6 million each year for a period of three years on a non-recurring basis for each of the 2019-’20, 2020-’21 and 2021-’22 school years, in order to maintain school district programs and operations?” 

Foster said the new referendum would include funds to keep a school resource officer position in the district, continue safety enhancements to all buildings and to maintain current school programs and opportunities for students.

“We would like to continue to be proactive in our endeavors to maintain quality eductional programs and keep our students and staff safe,” said Foster.

School officials calculated that the average budget shortfall for the upcoming referendum three-year period is just over $5 million, so even with a passed referendum the district will still need to reduce the budget by an average of $496,949 for each of the three school years. 

Foster said budget cuts have and will continue to be looked at in the areas of administration and overall staffing. The board and administration will also look at ways to generate revenue, including new grants and various ways to attract more families to the school district.



Revenue limits


Foster said Wisconsin Act 16 implemented revenue limits beginning with the 1993-’94 school year and a district’s revenue limit is the maximum amount of revenue it may raise through state general aid and property taxes.

“Once a district begins an operational referendum cycle, it must continue as long as the state has the same funding formula,” he said. “At the end of each three- or four-year cycle, the previous referendum dollars must be removed from the budget and a new referendum may be placed on the ballot, asking for the revenues for the next three or four years.”

As fixed costs and expenses continue to increase and state funding and revenue limits continue to decrease, Foster said Northland Pines will have a projected budget shortfall and must go to referendum to exceed the revenue limit.

Meanwhile, Foster said Northland Pines has reduced operating costs in a variety of ways, including reducing one administrator and three teachers in 2018-’19; continuing to bid out insurance; implementing a $5,000/$10,000 deductible HSA/HRA health insurance plan in 2010 and continuing to this day; outsourcing food service to a private vendor; employees pay half of their Wisconsin retirement contributions with an estimated savings of over $600,000 per year; sharing teachers between middle school and high school and across the district; and continuing energy projects to reduce long-range costs through LED lighting and solar panels.

Foster said the district has received many grants the past seven years, including grants for starting SOAR charter schools and the Montessori Learning Center, Fab Lab grants and school safety grants.



Tax impact

If passed, Foster said the referendum would increase the Northland Pines School District mill rate approximately 24 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation. Foster said the estimated tax increase would be $24 on a $100,000 home, $48 on a $200,000 home or $72 on a $300,000 home.

The mill rate for Northland Pines for the 2018-’19 school year was $5.88 per $1,000 of value, the eighth lowest in the state among 424 school districts in Wisconsin. A property tax bill also includes taxes for town or city government, county operations and Nicolet Area Technical College.

“At Northland Pines School District, we believe that all students have dreams and abilities which we can and will support to help them reach their career or work goals,” said Foster. “While we instinctively put safety first, we also support the whole child, with social/emotional support and many opportunities for academic growth. We have traditional schools, charter schools, an excellent staff, an environment rich for learning, many cocurricular offerings and great school, athletic and activities facilities, which we take pride in sharing with our community.”

For more information on the referendum, visit npsd.k12.wi.us/district/referendum.