MMSD Board Approves Referendum

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UPDATED: Monday, August 25, 2008 -- 9:30pm

The public had a chance to weigh in before the meeting, but only a handful of people took to the podium.

David Glomp was one of just five Madison property tax payers addressing the board. The father of two grown children, one of two opposing the proposed referendum.

"Your track record in terms of establishing trust among the taxpayers has been dismal," says Glomp.

After the 30-minute public hearing, the board spent around two hours discussing the three year plan.

"There really isn't any wiggle room any longer," says board member Beth Moss. "The piece of the pie that we get to control is very small."

The recurring referendum would allow the district to exceed state revenue limits by $5 million the first year, $4 million the second and $4 million the third.

Two speakers asked the board to consider upping that amount.

"The shared commitment laid out in this proposal is a bit too much in terms of program reductions over the next three school years," Deb Gilbert says.

But members agreed, Superintendent Dan Nerad's so-called "partnership plan" was the way to go. It has the district finding ways to come up with $3 million for the 2009-2010 school year.

"We will be treading water to stay afloat," says board member Marjorie Passman. "We still need to petition our state and federal governments for change in property tax funding."

If approved, the owner of a $250,000 home, which is considered the average, would pay an additional $27 in property taxes the first year. That would increase to $43 the following year and go down to around $21 the third year.

"We need to respect the views of those who disagree with us and that doesn't mean they're anti-school or anti-kids," says board member Ed Hughes.

Board members stressed, the additional money would not be used to create new programs, like 4-year-old kindergarten.

"What's a miracle is that our schools are continuing to function and I think that's the conversation happening around Wisconsin, now, says board vice president Lucy Mathiak. "How much longer can we do this?"

The referendum question will appear on the November 4th general election ballot.

The board will discuss its educational campaign at its September 8th meeting.

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UPDATED: Monday, August 25, 2008 --- 7:12 p.m.

The NBC 15 crew at the school board meeting reports a 7-0 vote by board members to put the referendum on the November 4 ballot.

Tonight on NBC 15 News at 10, we will have more from those on both sides of this move that Superintendent Dan Nerad says is needed to help the school district with budgetary demands.
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POSTED: Monday, August 18, 2008 -- 9:00pm

Daniel Nerad is a new face in Madison, but he's been through several budget battles.

"We are recommending a recurring referendum for three years only," says Nerad.

The former Green Bay superintendent supports a November referendum, but says taxpayers should not have to cover the district's entire gap.

"I feel what we've identified is a partnership plan," he says.

Nerad says the district can come up with $3-million of the $8-million needed with little or no impact on students. The remaining $5-million for the 2009-2010 school year would come from tax payers. The cost would become $4-million each of the following school years.

"We're not adding anything to our school district, we're taking away," says board member Marjorie Passman. "We're desperate and we need this passed."

Nerad also gave the board a list of potential cuts in the amount of $8-million.

This option includes cutting $750,000 at the elementary level and more than $2-million at the secondary level. Special education would take the biggest hit losing nearly $3-million.

"Know that that list exists," says Nerad. "Know that any shortfall we can't make up through our recommendations, these are areas we can look at."

If the board approves Nerad's referendum recommendation, the owner of a $250,000 home would pay around $30 more in property taxes the first year.

"I knew we were going to be talking about (a) referendum this year," says board vice president, Lucy Mathiak. "It's not my favorite topic, but it's a necessity."

The board now has a 20-page packet of information to consider. A vote will be taken next Monday to determine the district's financial future.

A public hearing will take place just before the vote. It begins at 5 pm in the Doyle Administration Building.

If the board approves a referendum it would appear on the November 4th ballot.