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District to ask for referendum feedback
MONROE - In its meeting Wednesday at Monroe High School, the district Facilities Committee came to a consensus that a referendum will be needed to address smaller issues with district buildings, District Business Administrator Ron Olson said, adding that the district intends to mail a survey to obtain public comments.

Though no details have officially been finalized, Olson said a 2- or 3-year referendum could be up for a vote as early as the November election. A debt of two years would be roughly $3 million. If it were to be a referendum for three years, it could be around $4 million. Part of the plan includes debt retiring at the end of the next school year, allowing for more to be taken on while minimally affecting tax rates.

District Administrator Rick Waski said the process depends on feedback from the community. Olson said the district wants to survey the community before moving forward and is currently preparing questions.

Waski noted the district hopes to finalize the survey created with School Perceptions, a research firm based in Slinger "that specializes in conducting surveys for public and private schools, educational service agencies, communities and other state-level organizations," according to its website.

"It's possible from that feedback that the community may be recommending a short-term maintenance question to go to referendum," Waski said. "With any project of this nature ... a survey is the only way you can get the most feedback."

He added that the district wants to gain as much input as possible to make an informed decision. The district hopes to mail a survey to each resident in the district by the end of April.

Since early February, the facilities committee has been meeting at school buildings within the district to assess maintenance needs. Construction company CG Schmidt and Plunkett Raysich Architects LLP, both of Madison, helped identify areas in need of improvement. Olson and Waski said a key point of discussion Wednesday was the improvement of heating and cooling systems.

CGS Vice President Eric Schmidt had noted in a meeting at Parkside Elementary School in late February that the building lacked unified HVAC, namely the use of 28 residential-sized furnaces to heat the structure and small air-conditioning units to cool it. There was discussion of roughly $2 million in ductwork and installation of LED lights at Parkside.

The facilities committee was formed to help prioritize the need for projects to update maintenance or school structures. It toured Monroe Middle School in early February, followed by Parkside Elementary and subsequent school buildings until concluding tours at the high school. A facilities study by the two Madison firms identified $91.3 million in maintenance needs within the next decade.

Waski said the current plan is to focus on a short-term, maintenance program and "perhaps down the road" more work can be done. He added that the district would likely focus on newer buildings if it moved forward because "you have to be careful with remodeling" due to the commitment once work begins. Older buildings could pose a risk of additional problems once construction starts.

The decision of whether to include a referendum on the fall ballot would have to be approved by the Monroe school board in July and finalized as a question in August. If the measure were to require more time before being voted on by the district, Olson said it could still be included on the spring 2019 ballot.