Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance

School Spending Referendums Highest Ever

83 referendums in 2016, 77% approved, totaling $1.35 billion.

By - Mar 7th, 2017 02:48 pm
Red Up Arrow

Red Up Arrow

In 2016, voters in 54 Wisconsin school districts approved $1.35 billion in borrowing for new construction projects. That amount was the highest in at least 25 years and about 30% greater than the inflation-adjusted $1.04 billion approved in 1996, according to a new report from the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance (WISTAX). WISTAX is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization devoted to public policy research and citizen education.

Although reasons for school borrowing vary, growth is a factor: Over the past five years, in districts where student numbers rose, 55% held debt referenda. Over those same years, voters have approved almost $3 billion in new borrowing. However, that is less than the inflation-adjusted $4.7 billion approved during 1996-2000, the last period of major school construction.

Debt referenda in 2016 were unusual in several other ways. According to WISTAX research, the 83 proposed were the most since 2001 and 64 approved the most since 2000. The percentage passed (77.1%) was the highest since at least 1993. In February and April of this year, districts are asking to borrow another $707.9 million for building projects.

The surge in new borrowing comes at a time when referenda to exceed state-imposed revenue limits are passing at record rates. In 2016, 81.7% of these referenda were approved, nearly double the average during 1996-2010 (44%).

Districts seeking revenue limit exceptions are different from those seeking new borrowing in at least one key aspect: They are likely to be suffering declining enrollment. Of 171 districts with revenue limit referenda in the past five years, 130 (76%) had falling student numbers—the reverse of districts seeking new debt.

Categories: Education, Politics, WisTax

4 thoughts on “WISTAX: School Spending Referendums Highest Ever”

  1. tim haering says:

    AFter Barack Almighty’s “shovel-ready” jobs failed to improve ant infrastructure, locals respond by funding their own infrastructure. Thanks for the gumball, Mickey … NOT.

  2. Rita Brunkow says:

    This is important. We are borrowing more for schools and borrowing more for transportation. These are basic common goods for business and everyone else. These are items our state taxes are supposed to be paying for. Where are those ‘reinvestment’ and ‘reform’ dividends going, Governor? We don’t need fancy language. This is basic stuff. We need you to do your job.

  3. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    Referendums are good. Means that the locals must make decisions on what they need in the community. Most of the take place in the 20% worst run districts like West Allis.

  4. Rita Brunkow says:

    Wisconsin Conservative Digest: Well, that is the first time I have heard praise for referendums. At what point then does it dawn on us then we might be better off without a state government and those taxes that support it? We can all just fix our own roads, educate our own kids, and make the rest up as we go along. Truckers can avoid those roads through the poorer manors and we can just drop off our criminals inside your border when we tire of them. I think there once was a plan and benefits to moving away from fiefdoms and towards cooperatively making states and nations. How far do we want to really go with this ‘deconstruction’ and ‘every man for himself’ fad.

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