Practically Speaking

Kyle and her husband moved to Brookfield in 1986. She became active in local politics and started blogging in 2004. Her focus is primarily on local issues but often includes state and national topics, too. Kyle looks at things from the taxpayers' perspective in a creative, yet down to earth way, addressing them from a practical point of view.

Taxpayers Need a Referendum Reprieve

2007 Referendum, Education, Elmbrook, Elmbrook 2008 Referendum, Legislation, TAXES, WISCONSIN

I admit it. I was surprised when Elmbrook's $62 million dollar referendum passed last April 1st. Usually, it takes 3 referendum tries before one will pass.

In my opinion, Elmbrook's referendum broke ranks and passed on the second try because of 3 reasons. One, it was held during a spring election (lower voter turnout) rather than a November presidential election (higher voter turnout), and two, there was virtually no get out the vote campaign from those opposed. (The third reason I call the secret weapon*, the HSST.  Voters really trusted that HSST committee theoretically made up of both "No and Yes" voters. But this third reason does not apply to this posting.)

Some might say, well, our 2007 referendum failed by a very high percentage. That one was also held in a lower voter turnout spring election too. True, but those opposed to that $108 million 2007 referendum leafleted nearly the entire Elmbrook school district with information as to why it was not a good plan. That did not happen in spring of 2008.

Why wasn't there an organized opposition? Fatigue. Those who worked hard to defeat the 2007 referendum were still too burned out from the last go round to muster much of a fight.

Why am I talking about this water over the dam now? Because Germantown's school board is sending their voters this coming November the very same referendum their residents defeated last April 1st! (H/T Jay Weber @ 7:35 am)

The Journal Sentinel's Mike Nichols wrote, Germantown School Board bucks voters. In that article, he reports how the Germantown board isn't even bothering to reduce and refine their April 2008 $16.5 million referendum. They are just sending the very same thing to voters again this fall.

"School boards do this sort of thing frequently. A referendum fails so they wait a little while, cut a little bit out and try again. And again. And again. Until the "no' voters get tired, or move.

"Germantown is taking it a step further. It's not waiting a little while, and it is not cutting.

Considering there are only so many pro referendum votes out there and there will be a larger voter turnout this November, it is hard to believe it will pass. Evidentially, the same thing happened in Hartford last November and this spring. Voters there defeated the referendum both times.

It seems unlikely Germantown's referendum will pass in November, but there aught to be a law against this!

Taxpayers need and deserve a break from this constant whining for more money from their school districts.

Jay Weber suggested this morning that a state law be made that would prohibit a school district from throwing referendum after referendum at their taxpayer base. A 2 to 3 year moratorium between referendums at least would be welcome. (He has mentioned this before.)

If districts knew they would have to wait for 2 years before they came at their taxpayers again, maybe, just maybe, they would present a more thought out and practical plan. Elmbrook's 2008 plan was not well thought out. For one, they budgeted for HVAC improvements before all of the condition reports were known.

While Elmbrook taxpayers know what they are in for now for the next 20 years (theoretically, we are nearly to the end of our referendums our district tells us), keep in mind many referendums are partially financed through the state. Remember Elmbrook paid for some of Janesville's referendum?

For our referendum, Elmbrook residents must pay “dollar for dollar” of all expenses. But according to Bob Borch, “They (Janesville) accounted for receiving 25% of every dollar needed to pay back the bonds as coming from state aid, this lowering the cost to the taxpayer for their borrowing.”

School districts should be prohibited from bombarding their taxpayers with repeated referendums. It would give taxpayers a breather in between referendum pleas, and that would be a breath of fresh air!


* The secret weapon, the HSST, made up of "No and Yes" voters, I think this was the main reason Elmbrook got voters to bite on their 2nd referendum try. Many people cited the reason they voted yes this time was that they trusted the opinion of that group's assessment of our needs. Many voters, for example, did not know they were voting for air conditioning both schools, including the gyms, or that the team started with the premise that new gymnasiums would be included. Members of the 2007 opposition expressed quiet doubts that the 3 No voters included on the HSST team were really No voters.


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Brookfield7, Fairly Conservative, Betterbrookfield
Vicki Mckenna



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