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Vote on revenue cap override OK'd by Ellsworth School Board

ELLSWORTH, Wis.--A referendum question asking the local schools' revenue limit be exceeded will be put to district voters in April, but other questions pursuing facilities improvements won't, the Ellsworth School Board decided Monday.

The revenue cap override proposal calls for exceeding the limit by $950,000 per year for six years, from 2008-09 until 2013-14. Superintendent Dan Kaler said there would be an overlap in '08-'09, when the $250,000 from the last override approved eight years ago will still be in effect.

Kaler said part of the amount exceeding the limit would be used toward school maintenance projects, which would be bid out, and for transportation needs. The board approved having the override question go to voters during this spring's election on Tuesday, April 1. A special board meeting was scheduled for Wednesday of this week to finalize legalities related to the referendum resolution and public forums on the ballot question were set for Monday, March 3, at 7 p.m. and Monday, March 10, at 6 p.m.

At a long-range planning session earlier Monday evening, the consensus showed getting voter approval about bonds for facilities upgrades wouldn't be prudent now, Kaler said. A recent survey of district residents was analyzed, indicating over 50 percent of the respondents thought there should be action regarding facilities, with opinions "pretty evenly split" between those favoring modernizing existing elementary buildings and those opting for one new building.

Among the findings of the survey, to which over 450 residents responded, were:

--Respondents placed high priorities on reinforcing the "basics," teaching "real-life skills," retaining high quality teachers, updating technology for student learning and maintaining smaller class size at the elementary level.

--Facility plans and priorities should focus on providing safe and secure instructional facilities and cost effectiveness of operations including improving energy efficiency.

--A proposal to help the district maintain current programs and services for the next five years through an operating referendum received 43 percent support, with 17 percent of the respondents "not sure, and requesting more information."

--An option to consolidate the district's two remaining elementary schools by building a new school adjacent to the middle school received 35 percent support, with 16 percent "not sure" and needing more information.

--In addition to quantitative data, community members provided hundreds of comments about various issues. Comment themes included the need for the district to communicate its long-range facilities plan, people wanting more information and more options, as well as concerns expressed about taxes.

The board tabled the bond referendums and planning for major facilities projects will continue, the superintendent said. Meantime, a piecemeal approach to district maintenance will be taken.

Read more in the print version of the Pierce County Herald Feb. 13.