Falls School Board touts middle school referendum

To the Editor:

As your elected Board of Education, we unanimously approved a resolution to seek voter approval to build a new School District of Sheboygan Falls Middle School for students in grades 5-8.

This resolution will appear on the Nov. 8 fall election ballot.

The purpose of this letter is to highlight key details of the proposal.

As a board, we are dedicated to finding a middle school solution.

We gave extensive consideration to several options and deliberated for nearly two years.

We want to thank the volunteer community members who joined the Facilities Advisory Committee. They gave us direct feedback on four options.

At the conclusion of seven meetings, the committee told us that, “doing nothing was not an option,” advised us to keep the focus on finding an educationally effective middle school solution and to minimize the tax impact of any proposal.

Four months and many meetings later, in August, we made the decision that building a new school east of the elementary school was the best solution.

Importantly, we sought a solution that includes efficiencies but doesn’t sacrifice educational opportunities for students.

We are providing a performance stage (rather than an auditorium), a two-station gym and classrooms that prepare students for careers in areas such as technology and culinary arts.

We made every effort to also make the proposal as cost effective to taxpayers.

When developing the final proposal, we focused solely on a middle school building, and removed any requests for maintenance for other buildings.

We looked for every savings in the plan, while safeguarding the vision we hold for our facilities.

The vision for our facilities is to provide well-maintained buildings and grounds that create exceptional learning environments; are safe and secure; cost effective; flexible and adaptable to changing needs and enhance innovative educational opportunities for students, staff and community.

We continue to proactively work to contain taxes. Specifically, since 2014, we have used a process called cash defeasance to accelerate the repayment of the debt of the elementary school and have saved $157,000 by doing so.

We have heard concerns about traffic at the proposed site. Some of us are current parents, too. We know the concern first-hand.

The plan includes additional parking at the elementary school and a new parking lot for middle school, with separate bus and car drop-off areas.

We will ask families to help by abiding by the new traffic patterns that will be established for the site.

As a school district, we cannot address the city streets, but we remain committed to working collaboratively with others in the community and do whatever we can in the best interest of our community.

This proposal asks voters if the board may borrow $30,900,000 and repay it over 20 years for the construction of a new middle school and to dispose of the existing middle school.

If the referendum passes, the board will attempt to sell the existing middle school.

If a sale is approved, the money budgeted for demolition may be used for other districtwide capital replacement items.

If it does not sell, the building will be abated, demolished and returned to green space.

We recognize that our request is a commitment of your tax dollars and we take that request seriously. These are our tax dollars, too.

The tax impact of $30.9 million in 2016-2017 is an additional $.30 per $1,000 on the debt service portion of our tax mill rate.

This is about a $50 increase this year, for an average home valued at $166,000.

As community members, we view this proposal as an important, long-term investment in our community.

We have made many efforts to collect input, present facts and answer questions.

If you have any questions about this proposal, please contact us directly.

Thank you and please cast an informed vote on Tuesday, Nov. 8.

Sheboygan Falls School Board members

Adam Arnhoelter

Naomi Borgenhagen

Victoria Bramstedt

Mark Debbink

John Johnson

Tony Krauter

John Mauer


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