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Referendum push begins
Parents wait for their students outside Abraham Lincoln Elementary School after the first day of school on Thursday, Sept. 1, 2022. The School District of Monroe is preparing an $88 million referendum for the November election. - photo by Gary Mays

What’s at stake?

On the Nov. 8 election ballot, School District of Monroe residents will vote yes or no to “Initial Resolution Authorizing General Obligation Bonds in an Amount Not to Exceed $88,000,000”

■ New high school on a new site

■ Capital maintenance and mechanical systems improvements at Abraham Lincoln Elementary

MONROE — Monroe School officials have started a big push to educate the voting public about a major school district referendum that will be on the November ballot and fund construction of a new, $88 million high school campus.

“It’s an exciting time to be in the district,” said Superintendent Rodney Figueroa, who is in his first year leading Monroe schools.

The move to a referendum follows years of research and surveys on the various options, including, at one point, the idea of combining the middle and high school into one remodeled, grade 7 through 12 building that would share common areas, such as athletics. This time, though a new high school is on the drawing board, along with major upgrades to the district’s Abraham Lincoln Elementary School.

It would be the largest referendum in the district’s history. Members of the school board were briefed on the effort to educate the public on the need for a referendum at the district’s August 22 meeting.

The referendum question is for a total of $88 million, which officials said would generate a projected tax rate of $1.99 per $1,000 of valuation. That means for a home or property valued at $100,000, the additional cost would be $199/year. For a home or property valued at $200,000, the additional cost from the referendum would be $398. 

The cost to fully renovate the existing high school — and the needed improvements at Lincoln — was projected at $86 million so officials said a new high school geared toward modern education would be preferred.

The district last went to a referendum in 2021 when voters approved a measure to spend $5.6 million to address compliance issues at Northside Elementary School including maintenance, HVAC code and safety updates. 

The district also went to a referendum in 2019 and was successful with both questions on that ballot. 

The first was a request to exceed the revenue cap by $1.5 million annually for five years beginning in the next school year and continuing through 2023-24. The funding was targeted used for operational expenses, from technology to curriculum to programming. 

The second question that time around asked that the district be allowed to borrow $3.36 million over two years in general obligation bonds. Funds were targeted largely to Parkside Elementary School. Projects include badly needed maintenance, HVAC improvements, electrical infrastructure upgrades, bathroom updates to be compliant with accessibility laws and a new fire sprinkler system.

As for the high school and the new referendum funding, Monroe School District’s Business Manager Ron Olson said the district is “looking at” various sites for the new high school but likely wouldn’t finalize any land acquisition until passage of the referendum question by voters. School officials did say the facility would be in the city limits and transportation to the new building is factoring in to their decision-making about a new site.

“We have been working on establishing the site for the proposed new HS, but we cannot discuss at this time,” Superintendent Rodney Figueroa wrote in an email.

“Some of the properties that best fit this profile are on the north side of town,” said the district, in its online question and answer section. “If a new site were to be north of Wis. 11/81 or west of Wis. 69, it would be difficult for students to walk to school and would require some additional transportation.”

To educate the public the district has an entire section on its web site devoted the referendum and is producing a series of 3-minute videos to explain the need; and the process for getting there.