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Survey asks Edgerton residents their opinions on referendum

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NEIL W. JOHNSON
March 6, 2012
— Taxpayers in the Edgerton School District soon will be mailed a community survey aimed at probing their interest in a spending referendum that could include building repairs, computer upgrades and a district pension debt payoff.

The survey comes after the school board last month approved district cost estimates for:


-- $4.8 million in district building maintenance.


-- $1.5 million to $2.5 million in district technology upgrades.


-- Refinancing $2.9 million in district pension debt tied to the Wisconsin Retirement System.


The survey includes three questions that highlight those spending options and asks for input about how much taxpayers are willing to spend and whether they'd support spending on them through a referendum to exceed levy limits.


The board will use the results to decide what spending options it could place on a referendum and ultimately whether to put a referendum on the ballot this fall.


The survey, which can be completed on paper or online, is due back before April 1.


Here's a look at the three main survey questions, the spending options they represent and their possible effect on taxpayers.


Maintenance

One survey question highlights a wave of necessary building repairs that have arisen in the district due to deferred maintenance in the last five years.


Major projects include replacement of aging roofs and windows, brickwork and other exterior repairs at district buildings.


If placed on a referendum, the projects would cost as much as $4.8 million over a span of 15 years. That could mean a tax increase of $45 a year for a person with a $100,000 home, the district estimates.


The question asks taxpayers whether they would support a referendum that includes those maintenance costs.


Pension debt

Another survey question asks taxpayers whether they would support a referendum that includes a plan to refinance $2.9 million in district pension debt.


District officials have said refinancing through referendum would allow for the payoff of pension debt at a lower interest rate and would shift repayments outside the district's levy cap. It also would free up cash for district operations, officials said.


Depending on how the district structured repayment, the plan could cost $21 to $35 annually for a taxpayer owning a $100,000 home, the district estimates.


Technology

In a third survey question, the district highlights $1.5 million in costs for technology upgrades.


Work could include installing a wireless computer network and replacing the district's aging phone system and older computers, some of which were purchased 12 years ago.


The survey question lists additional technology upgrades the district is examining that could cost an additional $500,000 to $1 million.


This adds up to costs on a referendum ranging from $28 to $50 annually for the owner of a $100,000 home.


While the other survey questions ask taxpayers whether they would support referendum spending on maintenance and pension debt, the technology question is different. It asks people how much of a tax increase they would accept to pay for upgrades.


Bill Foster is a consultant with Slinger-based School Perceptions, the research firm the district hired to assist with the survey. He said the technology question is worded differently because costs of possible technology upgrades aren't fully known, and because the district hasn't developed a clear-cut plan for the upgrades.


"The other two options (maintenance and pension debt consolidation) are pretty well defined in terms of the project, they have kind of a plan," Foster said. "You're really testing something a bit different in the technology area."


He said as the district continues to take stock in its technology needs, it will want to know how much taxpayers would be comfortable spending.


"We're trying to test the range, not the binary yes or no," Foster said. "In this case, the potential is that some people might support the smaller plan, and some people might support more."


The survey also allows taxpayers to respond that they wouldn't support any tax increase for technology.



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