APPLETON, Wis. (WFRV) – Throughout the next two months, Appleton Area School District officials will host 20 listening sessions to provide information to the community about two referendum questions that will appear on the Nov. 8 ballot.
The meeting on Wednesday night was at Berry Elementary School. A full list of the district’s upcoming community listening sessions can be found here.
While there were only two parents who attended this session (as well as a few administrators), the conversation was robust and productive.
One of the parents was Jason Kolpack who has two children in the district and told Local Five News that he follows what is happening in the district very closely.
“To me I see education as a really important resource, the investment we put into education really pays dividends over time,” said Kolpack.
Kolpack said he’s supportive of the referendum and that most of the other parents he’s spoken to are also supportive of it.
District officials told Local Five News the capital project referendum would cost $129.8 million. It would fund a variety of projects including building a new elementary school ($36 million), adding middle school capacity and updating STEM areas ($47 million), updating elementary learning spaces ($13 million), and additions to the high school. ($33.8 million).
The district will also ask voters to approve an operating referendum for $5 million. This money will go towards adding STEM teaching staff, providing smaller class sizes for kindergarteners, first graders, and second graders, school building maintenance, and utility and cleaning costs.
“We want everybody to be clearly informed on what we are asking the community to approve,” said Appleton Area School District superintendent Greg Hartjes when asked why he’s holding so many of these community listening sessions.
If voters pass both referendums it will cost taxpayers $39 more for every $100,000 of their home’s value. According to the district’s website, the projected tax mill rate for next year would be $8.05 which is 39 cents higher than last year, but lower than the yearly tax mill rates from 2015 to 2020.
Hartjes said that tax numbers for the new year come out next month and he’s hopeful that the tax rate would actually be a lot lower than $39.
“I think that the Appleton community has supported public education for years generations after generation and we want that next generation to continue with that excellent education in Appleton,” said Hartjes.
Hartjes said surveys showed the community was very receptive to the referendums. Each bullet point on the wish list for both referendums received no less than a 60 percent approval rating from respondents.
School officials told Local Five News that increases in student population especially on the district’s north end prompted them to ask for these two referendums.
At the meeting on Wednesday night, the community members listed teacher retention, better pay for substitute teachers, improved programs for gifted and talented students, and adding air conditioning to all facilities as things they’d like to see district administration prioritize.