What is a Referendum?

There are two types of referendum funding school districts use: 

  1. Operational Referendum

An operational referendum is used to support the day-to-day operations of the district. These operations include staffing, educational programming, student services and maintenance of district buildings. Funds secured through an operational referendum are used within the year they are received. It is not uncommon for a school district to need to ask for funding support through an operational referendum. In the past 10 years, there have been more than 375 successful operating referendums in the State of Wisconsin to fund school operations.

The district anticipates that due to declining enrollment, an operating referendum will be needed in the coming years. The best available information at this time is that the need for an operating referendum will occur in 2023 or 2024 school year. Casting forward is difficult because of many unknowns, including student membership, open enrollment, and how schools will be funded during this next state budget which encompasses the 2021-22 and 2022-23 school years. The pandemic has also clouded the picture with loss of membership to homeschooled students.

Declining enrollment continues to impact our school district, this is the primary reason that all districts go to referendum for operating purposes. District officials believe that declining enrollment will force the district to ask for up to $300,000 per year in additional funding starting in the 2024 school year. The current 4K-5th grade population to start the 20-21 school year was 207, and there were 289 students in grades 6-12. As these larger classes graduate and continue to be replaced with smaller class sizes, the district will lose significant students and thus significant funds.

Year Fall District Enrollment
17/18 540
18-19 520
19-20 505
20/21 496

How common are operating referendum questions in the state of Wisconsin? Over the last 10 years, including the spring 2021 scheduled operating referenda, there have been 522 operating referenda questions posed to taxpayers. There have been 232 school districts that have gone to operating referendums during the last 10 years, representing 55% of the districts in the state. In southwest Wisconsin (CESA #3 region), 19 of 31 districts have had operating referendums since 2011 or 61% of the districts. There have been many districts who have run multiple operating referendums during this time frame.

The last operating referendum in the Kickapoo School District was a three year non-recurring operating referendum from 2005-2008 for $225,000 per year. At this point in time, the anticipated taxing impacts of an operational referendum would be approximately $40 per $100,000 of referendum, per $100,000 of property value.

Example: A $100,000 home, if we have to run a $300,000 referendum we are estimating it would cost 3 X $40 or $120 in the first year of the referendum. In the second year, state aid kicks in and the amount drops by $40, and then in the third year a drop of another $25.

$100,000 House, $300,000 Operational referendum (estimate)
Year 1 $120
Year 2 $80
Year 3 $55

More information will be provided to taxpayers as we approach the need to have an operational referendum, and state funding for this next biennium is completed. We want to emphasize that these are only estimates at this time. It is our intention to be transparent as possible as we move forward.

  1. Capital Referendum

A capital referendum is the method a district can use to issue debt to pay for facility projects, much like a home mortgage. A capital referendum is typically financed over an extended period of time, often 20 years. In order to consider approving a Capital Referendum, many residents want to know the current shape of the district's facility, and what future capital needs may appear on the ballot.