Spring Election preview: School District of Tomahawk voters to see referendum on April ballots
By Jalen Maki
Tomahawk Leader Editor
TOMAHAWK – Voters within the School District of Tomahawk will see a referendum on April 5 ballots.
The district is requesting to exceed the revenue limit specified in Section 121.91, Wisconsin Statutes, by $3.25 million per year beginning with the 2022-2023 school year and ending with the 2024-2025 school year “for non-recurring purposes, including expenses to maintain current educational programming and ongoing facility maintenance needs,” according to the referendum question.
This year’s Spring Election will mark the district’s third attempt to approve a spending request in roughly 18 months.
Voters approved a four-year referendum in 2017. Following its expiration in June 2021, the district lost approximately $3 million in operational revenue, which led to a four-year, $3.5 million referendum being placed on Nov. 2020 ballots. That spending request was ultimately rejected by 51 votes.
In April 2021, a four-year, $3.25 million referendum failed by 33 votes.
Following the defeat of the referendums, the district made nearly $1.2 million in cuts in the 2021-2022 district budget. In May 2021, the district’s Board of Education voted to not replace four professional staff and two administrators who had retired or resigned. The board also did not renew contracts for three professional staff, froze salaries for all staff for the 2021-2022 school year and eliminated one bus route.
The district also spent $1.8 million from its fund balance.
“This is not sustainable and is something that cannot be done in the future,” board member Deb Velleux said in reference to fund balance spending.
In Oct. 2021, the board began working toward placing a referendum on April 2022 ballots. The board formed an ad hoc committee tasked with overseeing the planning process and hired two firms, one to assist the district with communication and another to ensure that legal requirements regarding the referendum resolution and ballot question language were met.
On Jan. 11, the board voted to place the spending request on Spring Election ballots.
In the months following the board’s approval of the April 2022 referendum, the district held numerous public meetings to inform the public about the spending request. Board members also presented the City of Tomahawk Common Council with information regarding the referendum during the council’s February meeting.
Additional referendum information is available on the district’s website at www.tomahawk.k12.wi.us/district/referendum.cfm.