UPDATE: School district leaders react to referendum proposal

UPDATED: Thursday, December 17, 2015 --- 5:00 p.m.

Madison, Wis. --- Republicans in the Assembly want to limit the number of times a school district can ask voter for money.

The bill is two fold. It would only allow referendums during general elections and if one fails, it can only be brought to a vote again a year later.

Representatives from several school districts filled the hearing room on Thursday, expressing their concerns. One area school board president says funding has already been drastically cut and many schools rely on referendums to make ends meet.

"The district I represent, Fort Atkinson, has gone to operational referendum for a number of years dating back since 2006," said Robert Chady, School Board President for the School District of Fort Atkinson. "Our 2005 referendum failed. We came back six months later and we were successful with the referendum question. We've been successful ever since."

Madison school leaders are also speaking out against the bill releasing a statement saying:

"After repeatedly cutting resources from public education, this bill would tie the hands of local communities to make their own decisions. We are fortunate that our local community has overwhelmingly supported our public schools. We urge legislators not to put restrictions on our community’s ability to do that."

One of the authors of the bill, Rep. Michael Schraa says this is what the public wants. He claims constituents have concern about increasing property taxes and limiting referendums will help keep those in check. Rep. Schraa also thinks some of the testimony on Thursday was essentially a scare tactic, where leaders give the impression that school could crumble.

"We're not taking away local control from the school board. They're still able to bring a referendum when they feel it's appropriate," said Rep. Schraa. "We're just saying we need some guidelines. We would like full participation from the electorate and that's why we'd like them to come with a referendum question in a general election."

Rep. Schraa said the one year period starts at the time of the resolution, not the time of the vote. An example is, if the resolution is brought forward in the spring and fails in the fall election it could be brought forward again that next spring.
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Posted Thursday, December 17, 2015---9:55 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- The authors of a bill restricting how often school districts could propose borrowing referendums say districts are abusing the process.

Rep. Michael Schraa and Sen. Duey Stroebel's proposal would prohibit districts from bringing failed borrowing referendums and resolutions back to voters for two years. The measure also would mandate that referendum votes be held only during the state's spring election in April or during the state's fall general election in November.

Schraa and Stroebel told the Assembly education committee Thursday that they've drafted an amendment to reduce the waiting period to one year. But they insisted districts keep bringing failed referendums back and holding elections at odd times when turnout is low.

They say districts are ignoring the will of the taxpayers.

Copyright 2015: Associated Press