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Preserving Excellence

A Proposal for Sustainable Growth and Protecting Quality Education

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Hamilton School District Superintendent Paul Mielke and School Board Vice President Rachel Ziemer explain the April 2, 2024 referendum.
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Wisconsin School Public Relations Association (WSPRA) and Wisconsin Association School Board Officials (WASBO) teamed up to create this video, explaining the way Wisconsin Schools are funded.
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Principal Brian Balfany provides a brief summary of some of the opportunities for improvement at Lannon Elementary.
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School lunches look different than they did when our high school kitchen was designed in the 1960s.

Our Needs

The Hamilton School District takes great pride in maintaining our high academic standards and consistently providing one of the best educational experiences in the state of Wisconsin. We are grateful for the opportunity to serve our students and their families both historically and now during this time of community growth and flourishment.

This tremendous growth, paired with state funding obstacles beyond our control, has resulted in challenges. These challenges and our plan to overcome them require the attention of our entire community.

Girl climbing rock wall

Funding Shortfall

Many school districts have been forced to turn to their communities for support through referendums. This is because school funding has not kept pace with inflation. In Wisconsin, that has been the case since 2009. If state funding was based on the rate of inflation, today Hamilton School District would be getting an additional $2872.78 per student. That is more than $14 million this year alone! If the district had been receiving that money from the state, we would not be facing a budget shortfall.

Increased Expenses

Despite a well managed budget and responsible spending, expenses continue to climb. State funding has not kept pace with inflation. This lack of school aid support has hurt our ability to finance daily operations such as heating schools, paying salaries and funding maintenance to replace aging building systems.

Community Growth

Rapid community growth has increased student enrollment numbers. Our older buildings were not designed to adequately accommodate the large number of students who attend our schools today.

Operational Needs

We are proposing a $7.6 million recurring referendum to address our operational needs. This funding is needed to help maintain current class sizes, staffing levels, academic course offerings and programs. Funds will also be used to replace aging building systems and cover increasing operational costs such as heating schools and bussing.

Infrastructure Needs

We are proposing a $25 million dollar referendum to address our facility infrastructure needs. This funding is needed to ensure our buildings can accommodate student enrollment. The funds will be used to provide adequate space, renovate classrooms and increase efficiency of pick-up/drop-off procedures in cases where current practice impacts traffic on surrounding roads.

Young girl drawing

We Need your help

We encourage community members to take the opportunity to understand how an operational referendum and a facilities referendum will enable the district to maintain current levels of excellence while accommodating our growing number of students.

We ask that you make your voice heard by voting on April 2, 2024. We are committed to providing you with as much insight as possible into the lengthy process that ultimately led to the decision to place the two questions on the spring election ballot.

The Process

The Community Facilities Advisory Committee (CFAC) met in 2021, 2022 and 2023.

PLANNING

Community Facilities Advisory Committee

The CFAC is a group of approximately 50 individuals: community members, parents, staff, administrators and board members that review subdivision growth, enrollment, space utilization inside schools and physical condition of the facilities. The CFAC identifies needs and makes a recommendation to the School Board regarding next steps.

These meetings have taken place over the course of three years. The CFAC most recently met in December of 2023 and reported to the School Board in January of 2024.

Members of the CFAC
RESEARCH

Community Survey Results

Over the last two years, more than 5300 surveys were submitted by residents of the district. Independent research firm School Perceptions conducted both the 2022 and 2023 surveys. Our current proposals have been carefully crafted to reflect what our wider community values and has asked us to prioritize.

WE ASKED: Would you support a $7.6 million recurring operational referendum?
WE ASKED: Would you support a $29.6 million capital (facilities) referendum?

Above are results from the most recent survey, conducted in November of 2023. More than 2500 responses were collected, reflecting both households with students currently enrolled in our schools and those without. School Perceptions uses extensive data to determine the community wide total support. The results show us:

  • Total community support for a $7.6 million recurring operational referendum is 53.5%
  • Total community support for a $29.6 million facilities referendum is 50.5%
LISTENING

We Heard You

Community feedback and the need to minimize taxpayer impact has played a significant role in the School Board’s decision making process. Projects were prioritized, and in some cases scaled back, to reduce the original facilities plan outlined in the 2023 Community Survey by more than $4 million. The Hamilton High School classroom renovation project has also been added to the list of projects funded.

Our district remains committed to using community voices to help plan for our future.

YOU DECIDE

Ballot Questions

On January 10, 2024, after years of planning discussions, school board members approved two questions to be placed on the April 2, 2024 ballot.

Referendum Question #1

BE IT RESOLVED by the School Board of the Hamilton School District, Waukesha County, Wisconsin that the revenues included in the School District budget be authorized to exceed the revenue limit specified in Section 121.91, Wisconsin Statutes, by $7,600,000 beginning with the 2024-2025 school year, for recurring purposes consisting of operational and maintenance expenses, including to maintain current class sizes, staffing levels, academic programs, course offerings and services.

Referendum Question #2

BE IT RESOLVED by the School Board of the Hamilton School District, Waukesha County, Wisconsin that there shall be issued pursuant to Chapter 67 of the Wisconsin Statutes, general obligation bonds in an amount not to exceed $25,000,000 for the public purpose of paying the cost of a school facility improvement project consisting of: district-wide safety and site improvements, building updates and capital maintenance; renovations, including for technical education, science and art classrooms at Hamilton High School and construction of an addition to the cafeteria/commons area; renovations at Templeton Middle School; renovations and construction of an addition at Lannon Elementary School; and acquisition of furnishings, fixtures and equipment.

The Plan

Successful operational and facilities referendums will address current and future needs. 

Referendum Question #1

If the $7.6 million dollar recurring operational referendum is approved by voters, funding would be used to:

  • Help maintain current class sizes, staffing levels, academic course offerings and programs 
  • Pay for increasing operational costs (heating schools, bussing, etc.)
  • Replace aging building systems throughout District (roofs, HVAC, fire alarms) and install AC at Willow Springs Learning Center 
Referendum Question #2

If the $25 million dollar facilities referendum is approved by voters, funding would be used to:

  • Build an addition to expand Hamilton High School cafeteria, accommodating current enrollment and creating a commons space for students to use throughout the day
  • Renovate Applied Engineering & Technology, science and art classrooms at high school
  • Renovate to expand Templeton Middle School cafeteria, accommodating current enrollment and creating a commons space for students to use throughout the day
  • Reconfigure bus and parent drop-off/pick-up areas at Marcy, Maple Avenue and Lannon Elementary Schools to enhance safety, increase efficiency and improve traffic flow on local roads
  • Build an addition at Lannon Elementary School, accommodating current and future enrollment

The Cost

Financial planning is a top priority for the district.

Fiscal Responsibility, Extensive Planning

Years of conservative financial decisions have resulted in a high return on taxpayer investment. The district has steadily reduced tax rates by more than 60% over the last 30 years. The current property tax rate (mill rate) is the lowest in the district’s history. Planning has also consistently allowed the district to pay off debt ahead of schedule saving just over $ 6 million in interest costs since 2022.

Use the following calculator to determine the monthly or yearly impact on your tax bill.

Three boys in science lab.

What Will This Cost Me?

Example 1:

$100,000

Example 2:

$200,000

Example 3:

$300,000

Your Home:
$
Question 1:
$7.6 million operational referendum

per year

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Question 2:
$25 million facilities referendum

per year

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Total Increase

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Cast Your Vote

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FAQs

We understand you have questions. Find answers to commonly asked questions here.
What is included in the first referendum question?

The first question is for the $7.6 recurring operational referendum.
This would fund district-wide operational and maintenance expenses in order to:

  • Help maintain current class sizes, staffing levels, academic programs and course offerings
  • Replace aging building systems throughout District (roofs, HVAC, fire alarms) and install air conditioning at Willow Springs Learning Center
Why is the first question being proposed?

Years of inadequate state-funding have put dozens of Wisconsin school districts in the position of having to ask taxpayers for support. The legislature has gone more than 15 consecutive years without increasing school aid enough to keep up with inflation. Without the support of our community, Hamilton School District will face a $3.9 million dollar budget deficit beginning in the 2024-25 school year. We have spent years anticipating this upcoming funding shortfall and have now arrived at a point in which responsible fiscal management alone cannot overcome the larger funding challenges. 

What projects are included in the second referendum question?

The second question is for a $25 million facilities referendum. This would fund several projects including:

  • Build an addition to expand Hamilton High School cafeteria, accommodating current enrollment and creating a commons space for students to use throughout the day
  • Renovate Applied Engineering & Technology, science and art classrooms at high school
  • Renovate to expand Templeton Middle School cafeteria, accommodating current enrollment and creating a commons space for students to use throughout the day
  • Reconfigure bus and parent drop-off/pick-up areas at Marcy, Maple Avenue and Lannon Elementary Schools to enhance safety, increase efficiency and improve traffic flow on local roads
  • Build an addition at Lannon Elementary School, accommodating current and future enrollment
Why is the second question being proposed?

Continued community growth has led to a dramatic increase in student enrollment. We are simply out of space in some areas of Hamilton High School, Templeton Middle School and Lannon Elementary School.

  • Hamilton High School and Templeton Middle School cafeterias were built in the 1960s when student enrollment was roughly half of what it is today
  • Cafeteria projects would allow us to accommodate current enrollment 
  • Middle School students are currently eating lunch in area outside of the cafeteria, due to lack of space 
  • Larger, renovated areas will serve as multi-purpose, commons areas that students can use throughout the entire day, not just during lunch 
  • High school classroom renovations would result in expanded hands-on learning opportunities for students
    • Applied Engineering & Technology classrooms would be relocated to provide students better access to shared resources and adaptable spaces to accommodate larger projects and increasing number of students enrolling in AET courses
    • Continued advancements to AET facilities allows Hamilton High School to continue to grow the pipeline of potential future employees for local business partners
    • Art classroom renovations will provide students with better access to shared resources such as the kiln room. Necessary equipment such as large sinks would be installed
    • Science classroom renovations will provide flexible and adaptable lab stations (gas, sinks, power) to meet future needs of high school science courses
  • Lannon Elementary School is nearing capacity
    • Lannon Elementary School does not currently have adequate special education spaces
    • Lannon Elementary School expansion would help to create equality among district’s four  elementary schools 
  • Traffic congestion during parent pick-up/drop-off spills from school property onto community roadways impacting non-school traffic in some neighborhoods
    • Municipalities ask the district to remedy such situations, but do not financially contribute to solutions
Are there any specific educational outcomes that will be improved as a result of these projects?

Projects that expand and improve Applied Engineering & Technology (AET) classrooms are designed to enhance exploratory, career-related experiences for students to enable them to make informed decisions on their post-secondary plans, education, and training. Hamilton High School has established a number of student outcomes that are measured annually to determine the quality and effectiveness of our system’s programs and determine a course of action moving forward. Data points include: industry credentials earned, youth apprenticeship participation, career-based learning opportunities, course selection numbers, AET course options and nontraditional student engagement.

When did the board approve the referendum questions?

On January 10, 2024 school board members voted to place two referendum questions on the April 2, 2024 spring election ballot.

Is there an opportunity for community members to see the spaces impacted?

Yes! Community members are invited to attend our three informational meetings to learn more and see first hand the areas of our school buildings impacted by these proposed projects.

  • Thursday, February 1 at Templeton Middle School Cafeteria – 6:00PM
  • Thursday, February 22 at Lannon Elementary School Gym – 4:30PM
  • Tuesday, March 19 at Hamilton High School Cafeteria – 6:30PM

If you are unable to attend a meeting, but are still interested in watching Superintendent Dr. Mielke’s presentation we invite you to view a recording of it here.

Why are a record number of Wisconsin School Districts going to referendum?

In April of 2023, a record 82 school districts put referendums on Wisconsin ballots. In April of 2024, there will likely be even more. Districts have been forced to turn to their communities for support through referendums because Wisconsin school funding has not kept pace with inflation since 2009. If state funding was based on the rate of inflation, today Hamilton School District would be getting an additional $2872.78 per student. That is more than $14 million this year alone! If the district had been receiving that money from the state, we would not be facing a looming budget shortfall.

School funding can be difficult to understand. Wisconsin Association of School Business Officials (WASBO) and Wisconsin School Public Relations Association (WSPRA) teamed up to create this video, explaining the way Wisconsin public schools are funded. More than a third of Wisconsin districts are likely going to referendum in 2024.

Looking for more answers?

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Thank You Community Members!  


Question 1: Operational Referendum 

  • 52.7% approved
  • 47.3% opposed 

Question 2: Facilities Referendum 

  • 55.1% approved
  • 44.9% opposed