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Community meetings ahead for Plum City schools

Plum City school officials will continue testing the waters for a possible November referendum.

The Plum City School Board remains on track for a June decision on whether to hold a referendum, but not before striking out into the community. Plum City School District Superintendent Mary Baier said Monday that community meetings about a possible referendum could be held as soon as May.

Board members, she said, “want to bring it back to the community” for input.

“They want community feedback,” Baier said, noting that the meetings would help residents understand the impact for taxpayers and the schools.

She said the district is on track for a June 21 decision on whether to pursue a referendum. A final decision authorizing the vote wouldn’t have to come until August, Baier noted.

The amount of the possible referendum is still being studied by the board, which is looking at several scenarios, according to the superintendent.

“The board is being very deliberate,” she said.

Delayed maintenance projects, curriculum, technology and transportation needs would be the focus of a referendum effort, Baier said. She said the district is considering the possibility of a debt referendum combined with an operating referendum. She said a referendum could also come in the form of an excess levy request that would be non-recurring for five years.

The superintendent said she believes the district has a good story to tell taxpayers, noting that ACT scores from this year exceeded the state’s average and that other state tests place Plum City students ahead of their Wisconsin peers.

“We’re doing a great job here,” Baier said.

She acknowledged community concerns that the district could dissolve. While the Plum City School District “intends to be here in the future,” she said it’s important for residents to know that education-tax dollars will be collected locally, no matter which district educates Plum City students.

New boilers at both the district’s schools are “a must,” she said, noting that a problem at the elementary building in January required a short-term fix. Baier said boiler cost estimates are being considered by the district.

Funds for replacing the boilers may be sought through the federal Qualified Zone Academy Bond program, which allocates dollars to each state. Qualifications include having 35 percent of students being eligible for free or reduced-price lunches — a provision Baier said Plum City meets.

“We are using every possible avenue to keep this as low of an impact as possible to our taxpayers,” she said, noting that the no-interest loan program is competitive and could be more difficult to obtain in 2016 since the district hasn’t yet passed a referendum.

Plum City School Board convenes next at a May 3 special meeting, where pre-referendum issues and boiler bids will be discussed. The 7 p.m. meeting will be followed up the board’s regular meeting on May 16. Both meetings are held at the Plum City Middle-High School media center.

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker

(715) 426-1072
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