By Shereen Siewert
Wausau School Board members this week will review a revised referendum draft that would go to voters in April 2021, after previous proposals totaling $158 million failed in November.
In the November election one referendum asked voters to authorize general obligation bonds for capital improvements up to $155 million, while the second would have authorize the district budget to exceed the revenue limit by $3 million for recurring purposes.
The first question on the ballot, the capital improvements question, failed by a significant margin, with just 45 percent of voters approving. Another 55 percent voted against the measure with all precincts counted. Voters also rejected the district’s request to exceed the revenue limit, though this question failed by a slim 51 to 49 percent margin.
The district is now going back to the drawing board with new proposals that reflect a grassroots review and thoughts from parent teacher organizations in the district.
Unlike the previous proposal, this referendum does not close any schools, redraw boundaries or balance enrollment across the river, all of which were sticking points with parents.
According to Wausau School District documents, some parents did not understand what was included in the November referendum, while others were angry about the district’s virtual start and did not feel officials were listening to their concerns.
The first question in the revised proposal asks for $4 million in recurring funds to support full pupil services teams and support ongoing, shorter-term projects while also acting as a buffer to unpredictable state funding.
The second question will ask voters to approve either $140 million or $156 million in one-time funds to pay for various building and maintenance projects while adding what the district describes as “several critically important new spaces.” Among those projects includes an environmental learning center at the Wausau School Forest, a cooperative effort with the Wausau School Foundation.
Additional aspects of the plan include creating behavior support spaces, expanded pupil support spaces and creating community rooms and hands-on learning spaces. New, more secure entrances are also proposed.
The $156 million proposal includes building a new, 40,000-foot to 50,000-foot 4K through 8 Montessori school.
The Wausau School Board will take a first look at the proposal, outlined here, at an operations committee meeting at 5 p.m. Monday.
Wausau School Board President Tricia Zunker on Monday said the board had not yet had a chance to fully review the new proposals.