Addressing Needs in St. Croix Central Schools
On Tuesday, April 6, residents of the St. Croix Central School District will vote on two referendum questions.
The first question on the ballot asks voters to approve an operational referendum. If approved, it would allow the district to cover the costs of maintaining competitive staff compensation and other district operating expenses.
The operational referendum would enable the district to exceed its state-imposed revenue limit authority by $1,700,000 in the 2021-22 school year, and then by $350,000 each year through 2031.
The second question is a facilities referendum. If approved, it would provide the district with an additional $22.5 million to improve district facilities, including a career and technical addition to the high school to improve programming and opportunities for students planning to pursue the trades. There would also be a four-year-old kindergarten addition to the elementary school so that all 4K students can have the same access to the many services only available to them on our elementary campus.
Additionally, the district would also make upgrades to heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) and other systems throughout our buildings.
The solutions on the April ballot would create additional capacity in the district, alleviate overcrowding, and make the district more competitive. The board is proposing a focused solution that provides great value to taxpayers.
Frequently Asked Questions
Below are answers to some common questions about the district’s needs and the solutions currently under consideration. If you have any further questions, we encourage you to contact us.
What are the district’s needs?
The St. Croix Central School District has a number of needs that it must address to ensure students continue to have access to a high-quality educational experience. Below are the district's most critical needs at this time:
- Increasing our capacity to expand four-year-old kindergarten, something that makes both academic and financial sense
- Expanding our career and technical education spaces
- Ensuring the district retains and recruits the best educators to support our bold vision
The School Board has been actively working to engage the district community and find a solution that balances the needs of our schools with those of taxpayers.
Why does the district need to offer four-year-old kindergarten?
The district currently offers four-year-old kindergarten both at our elementary school and an offsite location. We aim to bring the entire 4K program onsite so that we can expand it and ensure we can serve all families.
Research has long suggested that the best investment we can make in terms of educational achievement is at the earliest level. By expanding 4K programming in our schools, we can better ensure safety and security, quality programming, and shared costs.
What are the benefits of four-year-old kindergarten?
Research has repeatedly shown that four-year-old kindergarten leads to increased achievement for students throughout their K-12 academic career and beyond. It also leads to better social-emotional skills, fewer achievement gaps and improved retention of learning.
Why can't the district reduce expenses in other areas to build a new facility for four-year-old kindergarten?
Over the past several years, the board and district leaders have worked diligently to place the district in an exceptional financial position. The district makes the most out of every dollar taxpayers invest in its schools.
To that end, reallocating existing funds to expand our 4K program would negatively impact other areas and grade levels. While we believe expanding 4K is critically important, it should not come at the expense of other students' opportunities.
Why does the district need to expand career and technical education spaces?
Career and technical education allows students who learn critical, foundational knowledge in one set of classes to use technical skills to design and build— often with the same tools used in industry.
By expanding our career and technical education opportunities, we provide all students a clean, safe, and modern space that facilitates learning and allows students to gain important skills they can apply to a well-paying job after graduation. We can also meet our goal of helping ensure students gain the knowledge and skills that will serve them well in the future while meeting local businesses’ needs for skilled employees.
Why does the district need to recruit and retain high-quality staff?
The work of the St. Croix Central School District is aligned with a strategic plan based on the district’s vision, mission, and beliefs. To achieve its goals, the district must be able to continue recruiting and retaining outstanding educators. However, in recent years, the 12 school districts with which St. Croix Central competes to retain and recruit educators have changed their compensation plans, putting our district at a disadvantage.
One of the most important variables in the success of a school district and, ultimately, our ability to achieve our vision, is the skill of our instructors. Outstanding teachers and staff— with superior knowledge, skills, and experience— allow the district to move forward, compete favorably, maintain high property values, and continue raising standards for student achievement.
Although the skills and experience of our teachers are more important than ever, fewer college students are pursuing careers in education. We compete for talent with neighboring districts. Education is a people-oriented business, and we must ensure we continue to hire exceptional people to serve our students and families.
Currently, St. Croix Central pays educators between 5% and 15% less than the 12-district comparison group. To ensure our district can retain and recruit the best educators, the community-led Task Force and the School Board have been considering changes to the way our educators are compensated.
The school board has been working to create a new compensation plan. The new plan recognizes high-performing educators in the district while creating a clear path for professional development.
Why is the board addressing these needs now, in the middle of a pandemic?
While we fully understand the impact that COVID-19 has had on our school district and the entire community, the pandemic has not changed the fact that the district has a number of critical needs. The longer we wait to address these needs, the more expensive it will be to do so.
What is the district’s current financial situation?
The board and district leaders have worked diligently to place the district in an outstanding financial position. This allows us flexibility as we work to find solutions to our most pressing needs.
Over the years, the School Board has actively worked to repay previous referendum debt in a way that reduces interest costs, locks in state aid, and improves the financial position of the district for the future.
The district is on schedule to fully retire all debts in 2035. It will also refinance and prepay debt in 2021, reducing interest costs by more than $1.9 million. Because of work done by the School Board, potential mill rate increases as a result of the referendums in 2021 would be largely offset.
How would approved referendums affect local property taxes?
If both referendum questions are approved, district residents would see an estimated property tax increase of 99 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value. This would result in a tax increase of about $198 for the owner of a home worth $200,000, over the course of a year.
How would the district use the funds generated through the referendum?
If the operational referendum question is approved, it would allow the district to cover the costs of maintaining competitive staff compensation and other district operating expenses. It would enable the district to exceed its state-imposed revenue limit authority by $1,700,000 in the 2021-22 school year, and then by $350,000 each year through 2031.
If the facilities referendum question is approved, it would provide the district with an additional $22.5 million to improve district facilities, including a career and technical addition to the high school to improve programming and opportunities for students planning to pursue the trades. There would also be a four-year-old kindergarten addition to the elementary school so that all 4K students can have the same access to the many services only available to them on our elementary campus.
Additionally, the district would also make upgrades to heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC), and other systems throughout our buildings.
When is election day and where can I vote?
Election day is Tuesday, April 6, 2021. Registered voters may cast their ballots at their usual polling location. For voting and polling place information, visit https://myvote.wi.gov/.