Dodgeville referendum

Voters in 35 school districts will vote Nov. 4 on referendums. 

AMBER ARNOLD — State Journal

The fact sheet that provides details of a $20 million referendum question for the Dodgeville School District offers a glimpse into the failed plan from the fall of 2014.

That’s when voters turned down a $48 million proposal to build a high school, convert the old high school to a middle school and turn the middle school into an intermediate school. It also would have closed Ridgeway Elementary School, seven miles east of Dodgeville.

The district is among 54 school districts statewide putting forward next week a combined 72 questions to voters. More than half (37) of the questions are for capital improvements with the remaining 35 questions asking permission to exceed state-imposed spending limits.

While the fact sheet for the upcoming April 5 referendum in Dodgeville doesn’t spell out the details from the failed referendum of 16 months ago, it does send a clear signal to voters that this is a different plan from the one overwhelmingly rejected.

The proposal focuses primarily on major upgrades to the high school and eliminates the controversial plan to close Ridgeway Elementary.

“The Dodgeville School District has taken an approach of listening and learning to guide efforts to address facilities and infrastructure needs in the school district,” the fact sheet states.

Later in the brochure, the authors use capitalized and bold letters with words like “LISTENING,” “LEARNING,” and “INVESTING IN THE FUTURE.”

How well the district listened and learned will be revealed at the ballot box. If approved, the plan at the high school would upgrade energy systems, remodel classrooms and add space to the school constructed in the early 1960s.

“It was clear we needed to have a different process and whole different proposal for our community to consider,” said Jeff Jacobson, the district’s superintendent who was hired midway through the creation of the 2014 referendum proposal. “We knew we needed to do something so we started right away.”

Around the state, the largest proposals this spring top $90 million. In Superior, voters are being asked to approve a $92.5 million plan that would touch virtually every building in the district, construct an elementary school and make $56 million in improvements and additions to the high school.

In Hudson, three questions total $90.3 million and if approved would upgrade and expand the high school and middle school, make improvements to the high school auditorium and construct multi-use athletic fields.

In southern Wisconsin, 14 districts, including Dodgeville, will have questions on the ballot.

In Boscobel, a $20 million proposal would create a single campus for the district’s students by closing an elementary school and moving those students to an 80,000 square-foot addition at the high school and junior high school campus. The district is also asking permission to exceed spending by $1.8 million over three years.

If both questions are approved, it would cost the owner of a $100,000 home an additional $641 a year, according to district projections.

In Prairie du Chien, an $18.9 million plan would add air conditioning at all schools, add gym space at the high school, upgrade an elementary school, build an auditorium and a greenhouse, and improve safety.

In Richland Center, the Richland School District has three questions for voters. Two of those questions total $8.7 million for safety, security and maintenance improvements throughout the district while another question asks for an additional $475,000 a year for technology education.

“It is important that we teach students how to professionally use technology,” Superintendent Jarred Burke recently wrote. “Technology has had and will continue to have more of an impact on the lives of our children and we need to make sure they are prepared for college and careers where they will be competing with other students who have had exposure to technology as a core part of their curriculum.”

In Dodgeville, the proposal would increase the tax bill on a $100,000 property by $189 a year for 20 years, according to district projections. The plan came about after a community survey resulted in about 1,000 responses.

Listening and input sessions and tours of buildings were also a part of the process along with a 30-person task force.

“This referendum isn’t really about space needs in terms of quantity. It’s about quality of space,” Jacobson, the superintendent, said. “It’s truly about upgrading the current facility and trying to address new demands in education.”

Just over $1 million would be used to make improvements to Dodgeville Elementary School and to other buildings in the district, but nearly $19 million would be spent at the high school. The projects include $7.6 million to replace the heating and ventilation system, add air conditioning, replace outdated roofs, plumbing and electrical systems and upgrade classroom lighting.

About $4.7 million would go toward renovating multiple classrooms, converting the library into the district office, renovating and expanding locker rooms, weight rooms and the cafeteria. Restrooms would also be improved and the school upgraded to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

New construction at the school would cost about $6.5 million for a library and media center, a distance learning lab, a science, technology, engineering and math innovation center, a music classroom, kitchen and serving area, and a greenhouse.

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