Oshkosh Area School District residents will see two referendum questions on the back of their ballots come election time. The first asks if the district can continue to exceed the revenue limit set by the state for educational and operational funding.
Dr. Vickie Cartwright, Superintendent of Schools for the Oshkosh Area School District, said, “without the funding that has been provided to our district right now, what we’re able to do during this COVID-19 pandemic, we would not be able to do. So for example, the money in the past was spent to purchase Chromebooks for our students in grades three through twelve… furthermore it also provides opportunity to our students. It may be course selections, it may be extracurricular opportunities, it may be cocurricular opportunities.”
The first question asks for an extension of the operating funding the public approved for the district in 2014 and 2016. These dollars are used to support academic programs, technological needs and student support services. This would total $7.95 million and would last through the 2030 school year. This will not make taxes go up.
The second asks for $107 million for the districts long range plan. Most notably, this plan will bring two new school buildings to the district, replacing five older schools that span three sites. The district plans to construct a new middle school, replacing Merrill and Webster Middle Schools, and a new elementary school, replacing Merrill, Webster and Washington Elementary Schools. These buildings are currently in need of $23 million worth of repairs and maintenance. The combined costs of the two new buildings will be approximately $88.68 million, according to the district.
“The capital referendum, which is question number two, yes, there would be an increase in the taxes per one hundred thousand dollar valuation [of a home]. What you’re looking at on the monthly basis for a house worth $100 thousand, approximately, is for the first year in 2021 it would be at an increase of four dollars per month, and then for the following year, 2022, six dollars per month and then from there on out it would be at seven dollars a month for the duration of the bond,” said Dr. Cartwright.
Additionally, the money would be spent to reconfigure schools to make them safer by bringing the office to the front of the building in the buildings where it is not already constructed that way. Seven schools will be renovated and three more will have additions built on along side the renovations. This will cost approximately $9.33 million, according to the district.
It will also go to infrastructure updates in existing buildings including HVAC, electrical, fire alarm, generator and roofing upgrades. This will cost approximately $8.99 million, according to the district.
Reactions to the two referendum questions have been mixed in the community with some expressing support for both questions, some deciding to vote no on each and others who are split down the middle.
Barbara Berndt, an Oshkosh mother and grandmother said, “on the first question I feel that we do need to continue the funds that we do have…. on the second question that’s where I have to say no to this referendum. It’s a huge amount of money that they are asking for us to commit at this time. The reason I am voting no on this is because with the pandemic things are so uncertain.”
Voters will see both referendum questions on the back side of their ballots on election day.