Tags: Geneva Linn
October 22, 2013 | 02:29 PMGENEVA — If the Woods School referendum is approved by voters Nov. 5, it’s expected to increase the district’s tax rate by about 6.8 percent.
The school board is asking voters to approve a $5.55 million addition/rebuild project at N2575 Snake Road. This includes a 22,000-square-foot addition — for a new gym, six classrooms and more storage space — redesigning the front entrance so visitors cannot gain immediate access into the school and revamp the kitchen to meet requirements for a hot lunch program. The fate of the referendum likely may come down to whether voters feel 6.8 percent — or any percent, for that matter — is too much of an increase.
On the phone Friday, Woods Administrator Ed Brzinski said he “can totally understand” if people aren’t in a position to handle it.
“These are tough economic times and people have to make decisions based on their personal circumstances,” he said. “I can’t tell someone how to vote, but I can say this. We put a lot of thought into this project and, with the bond market, this is probably the best time to do it.”
According to Brzinski, the current school district rate is $3.66 per $1,000 of equalized value — or $732 on a $200,000 home.
If the referendum is denied, Brzinski said, that rate is expected to increase to $3.95 ($790 on a $200,000 home). However, that’s just an estimate officials are working off of right now because they’re awaiting some numbers from the state, he said.
“We’ll be approving (the levy) in the next week or so,” Brzinski said.
He said the state Legislature offered more property tax relief, and “we’re waiting to see what is the impact on us.” They’re also awaiting final state aid figures.
However, if the referendum is approved, the rate is estimated to increase to $4.22 ($844 on a $200,000 home).
Brzinski provided tax rate figures for Brookwood, Traver and Lake Geneva Area Elementary (Joint 1) school districts.
n Brookwood: $8.56.
n Joint 1: $7.46.
n Traver: $4.05.
The statewide average for a K-8 district, he said, is $6.12.
“Actually, we are, as of last year, we are the fourth lowest in the state,” said Brzinski. “Even if the referendum should pass, we would still be far below the state average.”
But isn’t it a large increase for those who struggle to meet the $3.66 rate?
“I think, if people aren’t concerned, they’re probably not paying attention,” he said. “I’m concerned about being responsible to the taxpayers as well. Our job is to, No. 1, ensure the learning of the students of the district, but also do it in a fiscally responsible way. I really hope that the taxpayers of the district realize we don’t take this step lightly.”
What if the referendum fails? Brzinski said Woods still needs the space for programming.
Does this mean if the Nov. 5 referendum loses, there would be another referendum?
“Whether it passes or not, we’re still going to need space, so a future referendum would be likely,” Brzinski said. “The needs aren’t going away. The needs are pretty straightforward. If they chose to pay for it now, great. If not, they’re still going to have to pay for something.”
In an Oct. 9 phone interview, Brzinski said he was “cautiously optimistic” about the referendum.
Since then, the board held another information meeting. He said a couple were concerned about the tax impact, but “some spoke in favor” of the project. Brzinski encourages people to call the school at (262) 248-3816 if they have questions or concerns in the days leading up to the referendum election. Has he lost his cautious optimism?
“No, I still feel that way,” said Brzinski. “I think that, the more people who understand the situation, that they’ll make an informed decision. I’m still positive, but that’s my nature. I’m an educator (and) no matter what happens with the referendum, we’re still Woods School and we’re still going to do a great job. This is a special place, and I think it’s the best school I’ve ever been a part of.”