Wisconsin News

New regulations change how school districts fund community services

Referendum required to change amount spent on community services

New regulations change how school districts fund community services

WEST SALEM, Wis. (WKBT) - A new set of state regulations will change how school districts fund community-wide services.

Many communities take pride in offering a variety of services to residents like a public swimming pool or fitness center. To pay for it, the school uses the Community Service Fund, which is better known as Fund 80. It allows a school district to tax its own citizens to help pay for non-education related services.                     

In the past, school board members could change the amount of money in its Fund 80.

For example, the community pool is in need of repair. If the school board agrees, they could increase taxes for a year to pay for the repair and then drop it back down next year. But now, state officials are taking the control away from the school board and forcing communities to go to referendum if they want to change their Fund 80.      

One mother hopes the change doesn't hurt the support for community-wide services.

The community swimming pool in West Salem has always been a big part of Jessica Hauser's life.

"I actually moved into the area the summer going into sixth grade and that is what my friends and my cousins did every afternoon as soon as it would open," said Hauser.

Now it's a big part of her sons' lives too.

"My 5-year-old just started level one this year and two years prior, he was in skippers so we've really utilized the school as a far as swimming lessons," said Hauser.

However, this year the pool got off to a rough start.

"In the spring, we were delayed by opening for a month because we had a really harsh winter and we had a bunch of failed basin and cracks," said Troy Gunderson, superintendent for the school district of West Salem.

The school district of West Salem uses a portion of its Fund 80 to maintain and repair the pool.

"Our current Fund 80 dollar amount is $109,000," said Gunderson.

However, the fund is used for much more than the swimming pool.

"A portion of that is for the fitness center and a portion of that for a weekend custodian," said Gunderson.

So when something needs to be repaired, the school district uses Fund 80 to pay for maintenance

"When the pool filtering and pumps went out about 10 years ago, we raised Fund 80 at that time, paid for it and then lowered Fund 80 down," said Gunderson.

But that is no longer an option for local school boards.

Now it will have to go to referendum if the school district wants to change the amount within the fund.

"The folks in Madison are saying you are no longer able to make your own choices," said Gunderson.

"We should be able to trust our school board that they would make those correct decisions to keep it up and going," said Hauser.

For Hauser, the possibility of losing the community pool would be like losing a piece of her family.

"Even when I come every morning here just for swimming lessons, it's kind of nostalgic," said Hauser.

Gunderson said a great portion of our school districts across the state are already running referendums just to operate so to add another referendum to the ballot will only cause more concern among residents.

Right now, residents in West Salem pay $15 into Fund 80 on a $100,000 home.

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