• Planning for the Future
    Our Financial Needs
    Proposed Solution
    Frequently Asked Questions



    Learn more about the proposed operational referendum and ask questions at these upcoming events:

    February 21, 2024
    Time: 5:30 p.m.
    Location: Fort Atkinson High School IMC

    March 13, 2024
    Time: 5:30 p.m.
    Location: Purdy Elementary IMC

    Planning for the Future of 1Fort Schools

    Operational Referendum on the Ballot Tuesday, April 2nd, 2024

    The #1 question we've received is, how can we go to referendum for $6.5 million for three years WITHOUT an increase to the tax rate. Here's how-

    Maintaining a stable tax rate has been a priority for the district. To accomplish this for this year with the sunset of the previous operational referendum, the district prepaid $7 million in debt in 2023-24.  We are now asking to shift $6.5 million of those dollars for operations outlined in the graph below. This allows us to go to referendum for $6.5 million dollars without increasing the tax rate for the district’s portion of the tax bill.  

    Total Tax Levy Projections

    Find more information about debt defeasance, as well as our full set of frequently asked questions below.


    The School District of Fort Atkinson is a big point of pride in our community, serving students and families well over the years. The opportunities we offer and the people who deliver them help take our students to the heights of achievement.

    While we have schools our community is rightfully proud of, our district faces significant financial challenges. Most of these challenges are out of our control and largely related to the state's school funding system.

    To address these challenges, the School Board has approved an operational referendum question that will appear on the ballot Tuesday, April 2, 2024. If voters approve the referendum, the district will be able to exceed its revenue limit by $6.5 million per year for the next three years.

    WHAT HAS CHANGED SINCE LAST YEAR:Middle School Science Photo

    1. $3.3M in reductions of 37.7 FTE through attrition and retirements, and through active layoffs 

    2. The previous operational referendum sunsetted in April, 2023

    3. The new operational referendum will sunset in 3 years (if approved); non-recurring only

    Our Financial Needs

    All Wisconsin school districts must operate under a state-imposed revenue limit, restricting the amount of money they can receive through both state aid and local property taxes. The funding formula used to calculate the limit was created more than 30 years ago and is outdated. As a result, the School District of Fort Atkinson and many districts statewide do not receive adequate funding for student programs and services. 

    Any change to the state funding formula is highly unlikely in the near future, according to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.

    In addition to reduced support from the state, costs are rapidly increasing. This is especially true in areas like mental health and special education. The district does not receive enough funding to provide state- and federally mandated services for our students. We’ve also seen cost increases for transportation, supplies, equipment, and utilities, among other areas.

    Proposed Solution

    On Tuesday, April 2, 2024, our community will vote on a proposed solution to these financial challenges. If voters approve the operational referendum, the district would have permission to exceed its revenue limit by $6.5 million per year over the next three years.

    With a continued priority for student safety and wellbeing, approved referendum funds would:

    • Preserve current programs, services, and staffing relative to enrollment

    • Maintain current programs and course offerings

    • Retain high-quality teachers and staff

    These funds would ensure the district continues as a preferred educational option in our region.

    It’s worth noting that the School Board recently lowered the property tax levy rate by $1.31 for the 2023-24 school year, to $9.61. That represents a 12.21% decrease and is the lowest mill rate in a decade for the School District of Fort Atkinson. The School Board is committed to maintaining a stable property tax levy rate moving forward. 

    An approved operational referendum would not increase the property tax levy rate of $9.61 per $1,000 of assessed property value in our community.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Ballot Question

    This is the question that will be asked of voters on April 2nd, 2024

  • [NEW] What is meant by “operational” in Operational Referendum?

  • [NEW] In its simplest form, what does this operational referendum do?

  • $6.5m each year? How is there not a tax rate increase?

  • [NEW] If the District can use $7m to prepay debt, why don’t they just use that money instead of asking for more?

  • [NEW] How much did the Board save taxpayers paying debt early (debt defeasance)?

  • Does the $6.5 million referendum get added to the District’s base revenue?

  • If approved by voters, will the new operational referendum expire?

  • How are public schools funded?

  • Will my taxes go up?

  • Why did the board decrease the property tax levy rate if the district is facing financial challenges?

  • How would an approved operational referendum affect property taxes?

  • Will my taxes decrease if the operational referendum does not pass?

  • What would an approved operational referendum provide the district?

  • How would an approved operational referendum benefit students?

  • What happens if the operational referendum does not pass?

  • What has been the district’s tax levy history over the past 10 years?

  • What has the district done to address these needs so far?

  • What reductions or cost savings have been implemented in the past two years?

  • [NEW] If the operational referendum is approved, will the positions cut last year be restored?

  • What has been the impact of previous budget cuts?

  • Why is the district not releasing a list of reductions if the referendum isn’t approved?

  • Why does the district need more money if enrollment is dropping?

  • Has the number of students attending private schools increased? Is this why the district needs to go to referendum?

  • Why can’t the district just reduce expenses to balance its budget?

  • [NEW] Why doesn't the District just sell some land to provide additional operational funds?

  • [NEW] What land does the District own?

  • Why not close an elementary school?

  • Are you working with the city?

  • Does the district have too many administrators?

  • Can the district use COVID relief funds to help balance the budget?

  • Would future reductions be necessary if the operational referendum is not approved?

  • Does the $6.5 million referendum compound over 3 years (ex: $6.5m yr 1, $13m yr 2, $19.5m yr 3)?

  • What is debt defeasance?

  • Are other school districts seeking additional funding through operational referendums?

  • Why are you only asking for $6.5m with this operational referendum, when you asked for $8m last time?

  • Didn’t we just pass a capital referendum?

  • Is there a limit to how many times the school board can go to the voters with a referendum?

  • When is election day?

  • Where can I vote?

  • Can I vote early?

  • What is the exact question that will appear on the ballot?

  • What are the different parts of my tax bill?

  • If I have questions or feedback, whom can I contact?