Southern Wisconsin awoke to bright sunshine Wednesday. It's reasonable to assume the sun shone even brighter across the Parkview School District.
It might be a tired metaphor, but a dark cloud of uncertainty, which hovered over the district for years, lifted with Tuesday's narrow passage of a two-part referendum that will better position Parkview for education today and tomorrow.
The news triggered tears, hugs and applause as referendum supporters celebrated Tuesday night at Knute's Bar & Grill in Orfordville. Superintendent Steve Lutzke said it felt like winning the Super Bowl and World Series.
With about 1,300 residents voting, Question 1 passed by just 26 votes. It permits the district to borrow $17 million to swap the elementary and junior/senior high schools in Orfordville, renovate both and greatly expand the new junior/senior high, while closing the elementary in Footville. Question 2, which passed by 186 votes, lets the district exceed state revenue caps by $350,000 each of the next three years.
Question 2 reflected a growing need among rural districts for more money. Dozens of districts statewide posed such referendums Tuesday. Voters in Walworth's Big Foot Union High School District agreed to an extra $990,000 annually for five years to improve safety and facilities. Delavan-Darien School District residents, however, rejected a plan to exceed caps by $2.1 million per year. Perhaps Delavan-Darien planners, now facing steep cuts to avoid budget deficits, overreached with that amount and by requesting the money annually without end.
Granted, given the narrow margins of support for Parkview's questions, not everyone is thrilled. Those opposed claim they can't afford the property tax increases and thought the district should either repair what needs fixing or disband and join one or more neighboring districts. Some critics vowed to keep on fighting.
As architectural plans are refined, residents should stay involved to ensure tax dollars are spent in the best ways possible.
The district has been sharply divided as residents rejected four of the last five referendums. Instead of continuing to fight what likely will be a losing battle, critics of Tuesday's questions should set aside their differences and help the district unite behind the goal the referendums permit—bringing facilities into the 21st century and giving students better chances to compete in a modern and evolving world. Instead of higher property taxes—an increase still less than $1 per day for owners of a $100,000 home—discouraging economic development and hurting the real estate market, proponents might be right to suggest good schools will attract businesses and families who value quality education.
Faces on Parkview students likely were brighter Wednesday, as well—at least among kids who won't graduate before the projects are complete. These students deal with the district's deficiencies each day. Residents should stand proud, and together, after demonstrating to their children Tuesday that education is valuable and one of the best investments a community can make.