Clinton sets $42M school facilities referendum

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Austin Montgomery/Beloit Daily News Baird Director of Public Finance Brian Brewer (right) gives a presentation to the Clinton Community School District board regarding future interest rates ahead of the vote to approve a $41.99 million facilities referendum plan on Wednesday.

CLINTON - Voters in the Clinton Community School District will be asked to approve a $41.99 million facilities referendum on the April 2 ballot.

The school board on Wednesday voted unanimously in favor of the spring referendum designed to transition the system from a three-building district to a two-building district, with the construction of a new 4K to sixth grade elementary school and renovating the existing high school that was built in 2001. The referendum would also fund demolition of the former elementary and middle school buildings.

In a breakdown of costs, the 4k-6 building would cost $32.82 million; $1.99 million for adding 7-8 grades at the high school plus security updates; $2.12 million for abatement and demolition of the former elementary and middle schools and $1.49 million for adding an agriculture and technical education addition to the high school.

"We worked on this for a long time," said board president Ken Luety. "We've been working on something for a plan, and it didn't happen quickly. There's been a lot of planning and a lot of meetings."

The referendum was nearly added to the Nov. 6, 2018 ballot but the board voted in favor of more time to draft its plan of action. A community survey of 544 responses found that around 46 percent of Clinton residents supported the proposed referendum, with 44 percent opposed.

"The Clinton Community Board of Education would like to thank the hundreds of parents, staff and community members that have offered feedback and input throughout this two-year process," Luety said.

Ahead of Wednesday's vote on the referendum, longtime resident Wayne Skattum spoke in opposition to the plan, telling board members raising property taxes was not sustainable. Skattum urged board members to become politically active to urge state lawmakers to change the current school funding model.

"My challenge to the board is to become part of the solution and not continue to kick the can down the road," Skattum said.

In terms of total property tax impact, if approved the resolution would increase the district's millage rate 2.69 units, with the owner of a $100,000 home seeing a monthly impact of $22.42 for an annual total increase of $269 on property tax bills.

Last July, the board received an estimate for the facilities plan that would cost around $40 million. District Administrator Jim Brewer previously has argued Clinton's schools were in need of repairs and upgrades, even hosting a Department of Public Instruction summit of school superintendents for Gov. Tony Evers' Advisory Council on Rural Schools, Libraries and Communities last April.

During the summit, Brewer presented ways that Clinton's high performing district could fall behind due to aging facilities and lack of technology-based updates. Brewer also highlighted the need for flexible learning spaces as well as more Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessible spaces.

Clinton middle and elementary schools each were built in the 1950s. The elementary school had issues with its heating, electrical and plumbing systems as well as an aging boiler and piping, and the middle school had troubles with its steam pipes. The high school is newer, having opened in 2001, but officials said it is in need of modernization and upgrades and will need a new roof in 10 years.

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