River Ridge asking voters to renew operational referendum

By Correne Martin

The River Ridge School District will ask voters on Feb. 18 to approve extension of an operational referendum, authorizing the district to exceed its state-imposed revenue limit and pay for expenses such as instructional programs and technology, as well as security enhancements.

The public can learn more at two informational meetings scheduled on Jan. 29 at the high school in Patch Grove and Feb. 5 at the upper elementary school in Bloomington, both at 6:30 p.m.

The Feb. 18 referendum is needed to continue a tax levy that provides $500,000 of operating funds for five budget years and then reduces the extra funds to $350,000 thereafter. This referendum would extend a 2012 voter-approved referendum that expires this year. The 2012 referendum also extended a four-year referendum approved in 2008 by district taxpayers.

Failure to extend the prior referendum would require the district to reduce operating expenses by $500,000 and impact programs and services.

According to a fact sheet on the school district’s website (rrsd.k12.wi.us), if the referendum is not approved, the school board would be asked to prioritize reductions in “non-core” programs and “co-curricular” activities—meaning in areas other than English, math, science and social studies. All “non-core” and “co-curriculars” are important in providing students strong academic programs to prepare for college, technical school or the working world. No funding would be available to purchase new technology or for security enhancements in the district.

“River Ridge School District voters have historically approved operational referendums to maintain and enhance educational programs and services,” said Carol Wirth, a contracted adviser from Wisconsin Public Finance Professionals, who has worked with the district before.

Approval of the Feb. 18 operational referendum would not be a tax increase. The 2012 referendum has provided $515,000 for 2013-14 operating expenses and it expires after this school year. Next month’s referendum would renew $500,000 for operating expenses beginning with the 2014-15 budget. It would be applied to the December 2014 tax bills.

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