Shift in Public School Funding
- Since 2009, the State has allowed little to no increase in public school funding. As a result, a local referendum is necessary to keep up with rising operational costs (employee compensation, utilities, supply costs, etc.). Through this referendum process, more local control is gained and every single dollar stays in Fort Atkinson rather than going through the State budget process.
Sunset of the 2016 Referendum
- The referendum passed by voters in 2014 for operational expenses was for three years. The authority of the District to tax for the $2.25 million each year expires in June of 2020 and must be reauthorized by District voters to be available to the District moving forward.
Maintaining District Operations + Making Strategic Improvements
- Like all outstanding schools, the School District of Fort Atkinson must remain current and adapt its programs and services to meet the needs of our students and community. With the proposed referendum, the District can continue to offer award-winning programs and services to our students while strategically maximizing funds allowing for future improvement efforts.
- We believe we are at a point at which we are, at a minimum, adequately staffed. We also believe we should not make any further reductions in salaries and benefits of staff, which comprises 80% of our budget. To further reduce positions, programs and/or staff salaries and benefits would harm the competitive position of the district. If the district cannot maintain students because they choose other schools, we will lose more funding and a downward economic cycle will enfold.
Why School Funding Matters
What is it?
Why a Referendum?
The proposed Operational Referendum offers a multi-layered solution. It provides a portion of needed funding for the District to count on moving forward while providing a portion that the community can consider again in three years. Reasons this option was selected include:
$2.25 million of the proposed referendum is recurring. This provides the District stability in long-term planning and minimizes the risk of losing programming and services in the future due to a sunsetting referendum. The community approved this amount in 2016. The District is confident this funding is needed moving forward.
$3 million of the proposed referendum is non-recurring and fulfills the remainder of the District’s fiscal need for the next three years. The District has demonstrated reliability and accuracy in fiscal forecasting, but this amount can be reconsidered by the community in three years.
Feedback from the community strongly indicates a desire for sustaining current programming and services. Providing competitive offerings and maintaining a commitment to continuous improvement are also high priorities. Meeting the evolving needs of students, families and community remains at the center of the District’s mission. The proposed referendum makes this possible.
The District has strategically planned for this referendum by restructuring and prepaying debt. The Board of Education consistently considers the fiscal impact on taxpayers within the budget process. The proposed referendum, as a result, keeps taxes stable.
Given the results of the 2016 community survey, over the last 3 years we provided strategic growth based on what our community asked for, all at tax rates lower than 2016/17.
- Focused social-emotional and behavioral mental health support
- Strengthened academic and behavioral intervention
- Increased art and music programming
- Pre-paid debt
- Competitive wage and benefit packages for SDFA team members
The Impact: Stable Taxes
How can we do this?
By prepaying debt and shifting those tax funds towards programming and services, we are able to keep taxes stable during the proposed Operational Referendum.