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The Elk Mound School District is exploring the possibility of holding a referendum in April, seeking perhaps $15 million to $17 million.

Elk Mound schools superintendent Eric Wright said the school board discussed the proposal Monday night.

The district previously hired Slinger-based School Perceptions consulting firm to assist in preparing data about what level of funding the public may support, and they now have the results of the firm’s survey.

“We did a facilities’ assessment two years ago,” Wright said. “No action was taken; we just talked about what the results of the survey are. It’s a work in progress.”

The district has until late January to set the final amount of the referendum and spell out exactly how the money would be spent, so it can appear on the April ballot.

If the referendum is set at $15 million, it would mean an additional $72 annually in property taxes on a home valued at $100,000, Wright said. The plan is for the district to seek a 20-year-bond. He added that some old debt is about to be paid off.

When school officials began compiling a list of capital expenses, they came up with about $20 million in projects, Wright said. So, the board still must figure out a priority list and whittle that number down, if the goal is to follow the recommendation of School Perceptions of a $15 million referendum.

The district has about 1,200 students in three buildings.

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Some of the projects outlined include:

  • Safety and security improvements, such as improving secure doors in some schools.
  • Adding a parking lot behind the middle school. “Our parking lot is very tiny and congested,” he said.
  • Updating and expanding science, engineering, math and tech education classes at the high school.
  • Replacing roofs and boilers at all three school buildings.
  • Expand the libraries at the high school and middle school to include more collaborate areas.
  • Add a separate band room in the high school. Currently, the band and choir share a room.
  • Adding a new gym and classrooms at the middle school.
  • Fixing the drainage issues on the football field and repairing the track.
  • Upgrades to aging equipment in the pool at the high school.
  • Expanding the weight room.

“We’re not looking for frills,” Wright said. “We’re looking at needs of our district. Can we look at doing it in two phases? We’re really trying to be creative.”

Bill Foster, president of School Perceptions, previously said his suburban Milwaukee firm has done studies for the Chippewa Falls, Menomonie and Altoona school districts.

Foster said his organization develops extensive, multi-page surveys that go to parents, staff, students, as well as the community.

The firm sifts through the data and determines the level of spending that a community is likely to support in a referendum. For instance, School Perceptions told the Chippewa Falls School District that community would support spending $65 million on a referendum in 2018, and that measure did pass. They developed a 12-page questionnaire to accumulate data for Chippewa Falls. The firm is currently working with the Bloomer School District and the Chippewa Valley Technical College on referendums.

The Elk Mound school board will meet again Dec. 16. No additional special sessions have been added to continue discussions, Wright said.

“We have time,” Wright said. “This isn’t anything we want to rush through.”

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