Onalaska votes on school referendums

There are only a few items up for vote in today’s primary election. In Onalaska, there is a series of school referendum questions.

Since 2004, Onalaska voters have approved higher property taxes to give the school district more money. In 2002, the referendum failed and cost the district about 27 positions. In 2014, officials are hoping not to have that happen again. 

We spoke with the school superintendent, who explained the district’s options after the votes are counted.

Question one on the Onalaska ballot asks for the schools to exceed state funding by $1.9 million. If that doesn’t pass, the Onalaska School District will be faced with a few tough decisions.

“Really what we’re talking about is cutting people, and when you talk about cutting people, you’re talking about cutting opportunities for students,” Fran Finco, Onalaska superintendent, said.

In question two, the district is asking to go above state funding for technology by $500,000 every year for the next five years.

“It’s not like it’s a wish list it’s a need list,” Finco said. “If that were the only one to fail is we’d have to go back into our operations budget and say where are we going to get this money from?”

If the final question passes, the district hopes to remodel Northern Hills Elementary and make changes to bring kindergarten back to local elementary schools.

“The reason question three is on the ballot is because we have no open classroom spaces at the elementary,” Finco said.

Whether or not each item passes, tomorrow begins the process of making changes.

“We have plans for administrative meetings immediately,” Finco said. “Really even if everything passes there are still things that need to be addressed.”

We talked with people today at polling locations around Onalaska and got mixed reviews. Those who were opposed to the referendum declined to comment on camera but did say things like they didn’t want a tax increase because they were already on a fixed income and some were on a reduced income.