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FAQs

We understand you have questions. Find answers to commonly asked questions here.

April 2, 2024 Ballot

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 has 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
Do I have to vote for both questions?

The two referendum questions are independent of one another. Therefore, electors may vote “yes” or “no” on each of the two questions, and the voting results of one referendum question will not impact the other.  Depending on the final voting results, one, both, or neither referendum questions may be approved by the electorate.

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.

The Process & The Plan

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.

Why did the district conduct Community Surveys in both 2022 and 2023?

The Hamilton School District is committed to gathering feedback from the community prior to making any large decisions. Our goal is to reflect the values of our community and this process helps to ensure we are doing that. The survey was written by the District but deployed by School Perceptions, an independent research firm. View the complete results of the 2023 Community Survey.

What communications has the district sent to families?
What communications has the district sent to the entire community?
Why does the facilities referendum cost $25 million when the 2023 Community Survey measured support for $29.6 million worth of projects?

The School Board felt strongly about prioritizing projects, and in some cases scaling back project scope, in order to minimize tax payer impact. Board members and district administration spent weeks working with architects to reconsider every element of these designs. Together they were able to cut $4.6 million from the initial price tag, while also adding the Hamilton High School classroom renovations.

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.

What is the Community Facilities Advisory Committee?

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

CFAC members met in 2021, 2022 and again in October, November and December of 2023. In January 2024, they made a recommendation to the School Board. Read the full CFAC report.

Why has the project to build new high school locker rooms and gym been removed?

Results from the 2023 Community Survey showed little support for this project. Respondents placed this as a ‘low priority.’

Why has the project to address high school parking lot traffic flow and limited space been removed?

Results from the 2023 Community Survey showed little support for this project. Respondents placed this as a ‘low priority.’

Why has the project to expand the middle school library been removed?

Results from the 2023 Community Survey showed little support for this project. Respondents placed this as a ‘low priority.’

Are there improvements to athletic fields included in any of the proposed projects?

No, results from the 2022 Community Survey showed little support for athletic field improvements. Therefore, this was not included in the 2023 Community Survey and is not included in any of the proposed projects.

Why do we need more cafeteria space?

Cafeterias at Hamilton High School and Templeton Middle School were constructed in the 1960s and date back to the original building design. At that time, student enrollment was much less than it is today. We are simply out of space in these commons areas.

In today’s educational landscape, cafeterias serve as multipurpose group spaces that students utilize throughout the school day, not just during lunch. Staffing and class schedule requirements prevent the addition of extra lunch hours. 

Hamilton High School

  • Hamilton High School cafeteria footprint dates back to the 1960s
  • Current high school enrollment is more than double what it was when doors first opened 
  • The cafeteria currently accommodates more students than the original design was intended for
  • There are currently three lunch periods held every school day to accommodate students

Templeton Middle School

  • Templeton Middle School cafeteria is not large enough to accommodate enrollment
  • Approximately 75 students are currently eating lunch in the gym lobby due to a lack of space
  • There are currently two lunch periods every school day to accommodate students
    • Adding a third lunch period would require some students to begin eating as early as 9:30am. That means students would begin eating lunch two hours after arriving at school and give them more than five hours before the end of the school day. 
    • Adding a third lunch period would disrupt required instructional minutes. It could result in students having to begin a class, stop halfway through class to eat and then return to the classroom. 
    • Adding a third lunch could also result in adding minutes to the end of the school day, which due to bussing schedules, would also extend the day of Silver Spring Intermediate School and all elementary schools.
What will happen if voters do not approve the April 2, 2024 referendums?

Difficult decisions will need to be made if these referendums do not pass. 

If the $7.6 million recurring operational referendum is not successful, the result could be the elimination of positions resulting in potentially higher class sizes, fewer class offerings and less academic support. There could also be changes to how frequently our schools are cleaned and fewer routine maintenance projects completed, which could lead to long term facilities concerns. Pay freezes and more changes to benefits may also be considered. This would likely affect the district’s ability to retain and hire staff. If the operational referendum does not pass, $3.9 million dollars will need to be cut from our budget for the 2024-25 school year.

If the $25 million facilities referendum is not successful, schools will continue to work with limited space for our continually increasing student population.

Referendums and School Funding

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.

What are the main sources of school funding?

There are two main sources of school funding: property taxes from local property owners and general school aid from the state. Schools use a combination of these main revenue sources to maintain facilities and operations. A combination of property taxes and general school aid cannot exceed revenue limits determined by the state.

What are revenue limits?

Revenue limits are legally enforced ceilings that cap how much funding schools can take in from their biggest revenue sources. A successful referendum is the only way school districts can change their revenue limit. It’s an opportunity for community members to have a direct say in the way their tax dollars are spent inside their local schools, affecting local families and the community as a whole.

What are revenue limits based upon?

Wisconsin districts are funded at different levels based on different factors, but all need to adhere to the revenue limits that were established by the state in 1993. Therefore, if a district was low spending or much smaller/more rural in 1993 than it is today, its revenue limit is based on an old budget that is likely no longer adequate.

What is the difference between an operating referendum and a facilities referendum?

An operational referendum allows a district to exceed state imposed revenue limits to cover operating expenses or ‘everyday costs’ such as heating schools and paying staff. A facilities referendum is to issue debt for specific capital projects such as building system updates, renovations and expansions.

What is a recurring referendum?

A recurring question allows districts to exceed the revenue cap permanently.

How does a larger tax base affect school funding?

New housing developments provide tax relief to all residents as education expenses are covered by a larger tax base. However, this does not necessarily result in additional money for the district because schools are restricted by state revenue limits. When new homes are built, new homeowners pay taxes and some of that money goes to the district. In turn, the district receives less money from existing homes.

Doesn’t new construction result in additional money for the district?

New housing developments provide tax relief to all residents as education expenses are covered by a larger tax base. However, this does not necessarily result in additional money for the district because schools are restricted by state revenue limits. When new homes are built, the taxes new homeowners pay go to the district, but in turn, the district receives less money from existing homes.

What is mill rate and how is it calculated?

The tax levy is the portion of the budget that is funded through local property taxes. Local property taxes and state aid are the two most significant sources of revenue for the school district. Federal aid and local fees are other revenue sources.

The tax base is the total value of all property in the district that is subject to local property taxes.

The tax levy divided by the tax base is the tax rate. It is expressed in terms of dollars per thousand, or a mill rate. With the current mill rate at $6.91, property owners pay $6.91 for each $1,000 of property to support the local school district.

Community Connection

How may Hamilton High School’s partnerships with local companies be impacted by the Applied Engineering & Technology classroom project on the April 2, 2024 ballot?

Continued advancements to facilities will allow us to continue to grow the pipeline of potential future employees for local business partners. When we did the last AET renovation in 2018, our numbers of participants in those courses rose and we were able to add sections of welding, construction and woods. Increasing student participation increases our ability to support the local workforce.

Doesn’t new construction result in additional money for the district?

New housing developments provide tax relief to all residents as education expenses are covered by a larger tax base. However, this does not necessarily result in additional money for the district because schools are restricted by state revenue limits. When new homes are built, the taxes new homeowners pay go to the district, but in turn, the district receives less money from existing homes.

How is open enrollment affecting our increasing enrollment?

A very small percentage of our current student population are open enrollment students. We currently have 121 open enrollment students. In total, there are currently 130 ‘Out of District’ students. ‘Out of District’ accounts for open enrollment, Chapter 220 and tuition waiver students. During the 2023-24 school year, only 2.54% of the total District enrollment are ‘Out of District’ students.

I don’t have school aged children, so why should I have to contribute?
  • Good schools bring in younger families, who stimulate the local economy and, in turn, support older adults through income taxes
  • Quality schools have been shown to lead to higher home values, stability in the community and a higher quality of life for residents
  • Public education relies on the idea that all households, both with and without school aged children, contribute to funding
How can I learn more?

We encourage community members to explore our Hamilton Grows website, dedicated entirely to referendum information. You are also encouraged to sign up to receive regular email updates from the Hamilton School District between now and April 2, 2024. We also invite you to follow Hamilton School District on Facebook, as information will be shared there as well.

Can staff promote or advocate for the referendum projects to the community?

Not while on school property, during work time or as a “representative” of the district. There are strict rules governing staff advocacy and discussions around referendum communications. Please see this document for dos and don’ts.