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Hortonville plans referendum

Two questions on April 6 ballot

By John Faucher

The Hortonville Area School District will ask voters to spend $54 million for facility improvements on the April 6 spring election ballot.

Two referendum questions will address separate projects.

The Board of Education unanimously approved both referendum resolutions at its Jan. 11 meeting, following months of facilities planning efforts and conducting a districtwide survey of taxpayers in November.

The survey sought ion the district’s three primary challenges of building capacity, growing enrollment, and outdated educational spaces.

District Administrator Todd Timm said the district’s student population has grown by more than 500 students in the past 10 years.

“As our enrollment continues to increase, addressing our facility needs must be a priority,” Timm said.

The district has grown by 12% in the past four years and currently serves nearly 4,200 students.

“A recent population study has us growing by 45-50 students every year for the next 15 years,” said Timm. “In the first year of that study we have outpaced that growth.”

In late fall, the district contracted with School Perceptions LLC, an independent firm that conducts community surveys.

School Perceptions mailed surveys to all district residents in November and collected the responses.

The firm received 3,018 total responses, which is a higher than the average response rate for a community survey, they reported.

According to School Perceptions, they received a 35% response rate as compared to a typical response rate of 18-20 percent for similar surveys.

“The school district has analyzed community survey data to guide our decision making on possible renovation and addition projects at Greenville Middle School and Hortonville High School,” Timm wrote in early January.

Survey results

Seventy-three percent of all respondents supported the district in exploring an April 2021 referendum to update and expand schools.

Seventy-two percent of respondents said they will support a $41.8 million investment to fund updates at Greenville Middle School and Hortonville High School.

Fifty percent of respondents said they would support 12.2 million for constructing and equipping a multipurpose center addition at the high school.

The multipurpose center would be for school and community use.

Detailed plans for the proposed projects and referendum questions are available at www.hasd.org.

Referendum question one

Question one will ask voters to borrow $41.8 million for constructing additions and renovating Hortonville High School and Greenville Middle School. Improvements would include safety and site improvements, furnishing, fixtures and equipment for the projects.

Greenville Middle School

Greenville Middle School Principal Travis Lawrence said GMS was built in 2002 with a 600 student capacity.

“We have exceeded that capacity and are approaching 700 students,” Lawrence said. “That growth is projected to continue.”

Greenville Middle School experienced a nearly 30% enrollment increase in just the past four years.

Proposed improvements at the school include $21 million for adding classroom space, including computer labs, health and foreign language classrooms.

The improvements also include an expansion of the cafeteria and commons areas and relocation of the kitchen and receiving areas.

Plans would further expand the library, physical education space and locker rooms as well as expand parent and staff parking, and reconfigure bus and parent drop-off locations.

Hortonville High School

Hortonville High School Principal Tom Ellenbecker said many of the high school classrooms were originally constructed for elementary students.

“Many of the classrooms are long and narrow and were not designed to educate high school students,” said Ellenbecker.

Those spaces are not adequately sized for today’s educational needs.

The proposed high school plan would include construction of a two-story addition to the academic wing, create new larger mathematics classrooms and incorporate group study and student collaboration spaces.

The plan also relocates administrative and student services areas with its own secured building entry to improve safety by eliminating visitor traffic through school hallways.

The proposal includes building a wrestling room and renovating the existing room into a multipurpose space. The plan calls for constructing new physical education locker rooms and renovating existing locker rooms to eliminate basement-level facilities and account for additional student growth.

Existing office space will be re-purposed into classrooms, and areas of the parking lot would be expanded.

Referendum question two

Question two will ask voters to borrow $12.2 million for constructing and equipping a multipurpose center addition at Hortonville High School.

The center would create space for year-round indoor student activities and community use.

The plan includes building the large multi-functional space for both school curriculum and expanded community recreation. It involves a relocated fitness center that eliminates community travel through school corridors and enhanced security.

The design includes secure entrances adjacent to parking areas and a physical education and athletic storage room and restrooms.

Financial impact

The school board has said it wanted to provide separate questions on the ballot to give residents an opportunity to learn about and vote on the projects independently. It will only move forward with the multipurpose facility if the community also supports question one.

Question one is tax neutral and will not increase the district’s portion of taxes over current levels.

“The school district recently paid off some prior referendum debt allowing it an opportunity to reinvest in schools with little or no tax impact in the future,” said Timm.

The district’s tax rate has decreased over the last five years.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction records, Hortonville’s annual cost per member is in the bottom 3% of Wisconsin school districts, ranking it as the 10th lowest spender of the 420 districts in the state.

At the district’s annual budget meeting in October, Christina Peterson, director of business services said, “Our district continues to do more with less. Just look at our facilities and programs offered, and the high level of test scores and achievement coming out of our schools.”

Peterson also noted the district’s bond rating reflects a positive financial performance and long-term outlook.

Because of the recent debt retirement, passage of question one would have a zero impact on the current mill rate levels. Question two if approved, would have a 22 cents per $1,000 of equalized property value impact. The approximate tax increase on a $200,000 home would be $44 per year for the life of the 20-year general obligation bond.

Information meetings

The district will hold both virtual and in-person information meetings on the referendum.

A virtual meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday, March 9. Participants can sign on through the district website.

An in-person meeting is set for 6 p.m. Wednesday, March 24, in the High School commons. Tours will be available that night.

The district also plans to send out mailings to residents in February and March.

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