RF Supt's column: Referendum details

By Supt. Jamie Benson
Posted 2/7/24

On Feb. 20, School District of River Falls residents will be asked two referendum questions (Q#1: Operational and Q#2 Facilities) on the election ballot. The two questions will be decided by our …

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RF Supt's column: Referendum details


On Feb. 20, School District of River Falls residents will be asked two referendum questions (Q#1: Operational and Q#2 Facilities) on the election ballot. The two questions will be decided by our community. 

The district conducted a referendum survey of our community and aligned these two questions to the majority response of that survey. Only the priorities that received substantial community support are included in this paired down set of questions.

Both questions are now in the hands of the community to decide their fate. Much of the debate can be summarized as a dichotomy of property tax increases vs an investment in the vitality of our community, the future of our schools and our commitment to the children we serve.

Our district has attempted to help voters make an informed decision by hosting public forums, website information, mailing info sent to all residents, holding coffee/lunch meetings, and discussing details to various civic organizations. We have conducted more than 40 information sessions.

The district has much more detailed information available on our website rfsd.k12.wi.us/referendum2024 but below is a summary of the referendum details:

Question #1:  Operational – The state revenue limit, created in 1993 is an outdated formula that caps the total allowable local revenue to school districts on an annual basis. The state revenue formula has caused 80% of statewide districts to ask their community for operational referendum support. Now, River Falls has hit that same wall where inflation outpaces the allowable revenue hence, that need for an operational referendum question as an alternative to reducing programs, services, and overall expenditures.

An operational referendum asks voters for authorization to exceed the state imposed revenue formula limit for day-to-day operational expenses. It’s called operational because if approved, the district will receive additional funding from the tax levy for our annual, day-to-day operating expenses. 

The operational question seeks voter approval to increase our revenue limit authority in a “three-year step-up” approach including $1 million for 2024-25 (tax impact of $5/$100,000 property value), $2 million for 2025-26 (tax impact of $11/$100,000 property value), $3 million for 2026-beyond (tax impact capped at $19/$100,000 property value).

Question #2:  Bond (Facilities) – Seeks voter approval for a $28 million bond (facilities) set of projects that involve three categories of facility improvements:

  1. Security & Building Systems, and Grounds ($20 million approx.) to include new tech-electronic security for interior hallway doors, surveillance cameras, fire protection systems, PA notification systems, generators, HVAC replacements, etc.
  2. Transportation Center ($4 million approx.) to replace the current 1966 building with a new facility for maintenance, office, restrooms, combo-lunch mailroom and work stations.
  3. Indoor Multi-purpose Space ($4 million approx.) added to the high school to provide improvements for both community and school athletic facilities.  The space would free-up some evening and weekend gym space; support some community education classes; provide new space for the high school wrestling practice out of the middle school basement; dance, yoga, baseball, softball and soccer drill activities.

The tax impact of the facility question is estimated to be $58.50/$100,000 property value.

Please feel free to reach out if you have any questions as our district wants to help people fully understand the “why” behind these two questions and display transparency along the way. Change happens at the speed of trust. The school district has been open, honest, and transparent about our needs.

Please see our website for more information at rfsd.k12.wi.us/referendum2024

River Falls School District, operating referendum, facilities referendum, Feb. 20, voting, election, River Falls, Wisconsin