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School district heads back to the drawing board

Will Reek try another referendum in November?

April 13, 2011 | 09:01 AM
Linn — Reek officials still may be wondering why their referendum for a proposed $3.9 million remodeling project failed by a vote of 163-187 in the April 5 election.

"I knew it was going to be close, but I wasn't sure which way it was going to go," Administrator Lillian Henderson said during a telephone interview last week. "Obviously, we're disappointed."

The driving factor behind the project was the crumbling brick façade of the school. Nevertheless, on Election Day, what it boiled down to was there were 24 more people who opposed the project, which called for fixing the brick and other structural problems such as deteriorating windows and roof repairs.

So why did the school's

first referendum in several years fail?

The Reek School Board discussed its defeat at the polls during a meeting Thursday, April 7.

Apparently, the issue isn't going away. As Henderson said during a March interview, the building needs to be fixed no matter what.

Where does that leave the Reek School Board?

"They're looking at the possibility of going again to referendum in November," she said Friday.

She also said so far, it appears it would be the same project which would be put to the voters in November. Whether that's the case and other aspects related to this issue will be discussed at the May 2 Reek School Board meeting.

"I think that, from the conversations I've had, the board members felt there were a number of people who were not adequately informed about the project," Henderson said. "I think we may need to do a better job of explaining."

Flaking bricks

If the Reek School Board decides to put the same project before voters in November, more than $1.31 million of it would be to repair the brick and replace the aging roof and inefficient, deteriorating windows of the school.

Recently, Henderson said the main reason the board is pursuing the project is to repair the brick problems. Most of the structural problems lie within the 1993 addition and parts where it adjoins the 1939 section of the building.

But the brick is flaking. Henderson said Owen Landsverk, a Wisconsin Department of Administration building inspector, determined the school's brick work is shifting. He told her once it starts shifting, it isn't long before the steel framework also beings shifting. In essence, the concern is more serious problems are on the horizon.

In March, Henderson said the current economy has made times difficult for district residents and it "is working against us." There were several informational meetings about the referendum project, but she said attendance was poor. One meeting occurred on a night with bad weather.

Henderson said another challenge, should the board go for another round at the polls, is getting people more involved.

"That's one of the concerns, how to do a better job of informing people," she said.

What about consolidation?

There's another notion floating around which may have caused more ink to land in the "no" circles on the April 5 ballots. That's the idea Reek should pursue consolidating with a nearby school district.

Henderson delved into the idea Friday. For two or more school districts to consolidate, she said they typically need to have adjoining boundaries.

"If the district were to dissolve or consolidate, it would make more sense to consolidate with Traver or Fontana," she said.

According to Henderson, Reek doesn't receive much state aid funding because of the district's high property values.

Should Reek consolidate with a district which receives state aid, the new district wouldn't receive state aid.

"Well, I should say it's very unlikely (because) Reek is one of the most property-wealthy districts in the state of Wisconsin," Henderson said.

She said the other district Reek adjoins is Walworth, but "Walworth receives a lot of state aid."

Earlier this year, officials from Reek and Fontana school districts discussed consolidation. Henderson said there are limitations.

"We discovered Fontana couldn't house all of our students and we couldn't house all of Fontana's students," she said.

She said Reek and Traver officials haven't discussed the idea, but some concerns already are apparent.

"We feed into different high schools, which could be problematic for some people," Henderson said. "Also, we don't know if Traver could house all of our students."

Currently, Reek has 130 students. Henderson said Fontana has about 270.


Another notion is consolidation saves money. According to Henderson, it would depend on which district a taxpayer lives.

"Usually, the rule of thumb is the district with the lowest mil rate is the district with taxpayers who are going to be paying more money (after consolidation)," Henderson said.

Reek's tax rate is $1.84 per $1,000 of equalized value. Fontana's is $2.57. Traver's is $3.72.

"But this is all stuff we'll be looking at in May," Henderson said.

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