WHEELERWeek – Referendum

As published by The Wheeler Report – 07/25/73…

The committee was also urged to approve a bill (AB 315) to prevent school boards from repeatedly submitting a bonding plan to the voters, after the plan has been once defeated. The bill would forbid submitting it for one year after rejection. Rep. Gerald Kleczda (D-Milwaukee) proposed a substitute amendment to extend the restriction to all local governing bodies, including vocational school districts and sanitary districts. The committee took no final action on any of the bills.

Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner pushed for an amendment to AB 315 that would delete a line stating “the same proposal” cannot be brought more than once and replace it with “a proposal of the same purpose”, meaning that the same proposal cannot be brought a second time with different language.

A Brief History…

In 2017, SB-194 brought by Senator Stroebel permits the scheduling of a referendum to increase a school district’s revenue limit only during spring and fall elections. This bill also permits a school board to submit a resolution to electors to borrow money through a bond issue only during spring elections and general elections, as long as the general election falls at least 70 days after the board adopts the resolution. In the case of natural disaster, the bill would allow for a special election to be held to seek approval of an increase to revenue limit or to issue a bond within the six months following the natural disaster, but not any sooner than 70 days after the date that the board files the resolution.

In an interview with the Wheeler Report from March 2017, Sen. Stroebel said he introduced the bill, and a few others concerning similar topics, because he was frustrated with the system that encourages passing referendum. Stroebel noted that Wisconsin property taxes are at stake to go up with every passing referendum. He is “tired of being a high tax state” and is “especially tired of pushing for lower taxes and limited spending only to have the efforts undone in school referenda.”

Stroebel and Kleczka’s proposals are similar in that they both seek to limit the amount of referendums brought by school districts and to control state spending on education, so as to keep property taxes low and to maximize the election outcome yearly or bi-yearly, rather than spend money on separate elections.

SB-194 failed to pass on March 28, 2018, however a proposal was included in the budget process. The budget amendment as part of the Public Instruction Omnibus Motion offered by Sen. Darling, Rep. Nygren, and Rep. Felzkowski stated that it would limit school district referendums that would exceed revenue limits or issue bonds to being held only during regularly-scheduled spring and fall elections. Referendums may only be held on two dates per year (the dates of the spring and fall elections). For school districts that have experienced natural disaster that would cause a district’s costs to increase, there could be a special referendum held in the six months following the natural disaster, but no less than 70 days after the adoption of the resolution. A referendum held after a natural disaster would not count towards the two-date (spring and fall election days) limit or be limited to dates specified in the same budget amendment. These provisions apply to school board resolutions to exceed the revenue limits or issue bonds after January 1, 2018. The motion was passed 12-4.

And Today…

DPI has implemented the budget provision on referendum, but there are concerns over the provision now that it has been implemented.