Senate Passes School Referendum Bill

School districts may soon be forced to hold referendums on the same day as the general election.

The Wisconsin Senate approved a bill Thursday that mandates future school referendums be held on regularly scheduled election and primary days.

The move comes as the Madison Metropolitan School District prepares to go to a special election on May 24.

"They cost the school district money and I think it's a blatant attempt to hoodwink the public into probably not showing up at the polls and allowing these referendums to pass," says Senator Alan Lasee, Senate President and author of the legislation.

Lasee wants to stop the 60% of school referendums that are now held during off-election time.

"They're going to wait a couple of weeks and spend $100,000 promoting a referendum and having the vote when in fact if they'd gotten their act together, they could have done it sooner," he says.

Lasee targets the Madison School District.

But school board members say they didn't have time to get the budget referendum ready by the spring election. They point their fingers back at the state.

Board Vice President Johnny Winston, Jr., says, "The state is not giving their portion of the funds to provide adequate education to our young people so we're making this a local level decision, and it's the local people that should decide when elections are and are not held."

Winston, Jr., says the district's budget cycle is not the same as the state's and that causes timing problems.

"We're not the same so we're not going to have that same schedule," he says, "So we've decided this is the best time and best place to hold this election and it's a local level decision."

A decision Senators say is poorly handled.

"Here's a district that's struggling financially and needs money," says Lasee, " What do they do, they throw the money away. So in my book they certainly are not good guardians of the taxpayers' money."

School district's are required to pay municipalities for holding special elections and it can cost upwards of $100,000.

Madison voters will go to the polls for three referendum questions on May 24.

The "School Referendum Bill," Senate Bill 171, now heads to the Assembly for debate.

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