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Vote “NO” on Wilmot HS Referendum: Opinion

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Michael Plourde – Wilmot High School Administrator
(File Photo By Kevin Mathewson, Kenosha County Eye)

It’s that time of year again; another election day in Western Kenosha County and that means yet another attempt to boost our sky-high property taxes courtesy of Wilmot Union High School. After the electorate defeated an $8.4M request to exceed the State of Wisconsin revenue spending limits this past year, the Wilmot HS Board has come back with another request to exceed the revenue limits by additional $7.5M over three years for operational purposes, with tax-weary property taxpayers left to foot the hefty bill.

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Wilmot District property taxpayers were elated when they received their property tax bills last December when they noticed that the Wilmot HS portion dipped by roughly 75%. The reason for the steep decline was that the 20-year $39.5M referendum from 2004 which expanded the school, refinanced debt, and purchased land was finally paid off, leaving WUHS to tax only what was allowed by state revenue spending limits. 

Finally, it was time to put more money in the pockets of the taxpayer. But if the Wilmot HS board has its way, property taxes will be on the rise once again.

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This latest Operating Referendum will be decided by voters during the February 20, 2024 primary. This is a time when voting is typically the lightest and it will be important for district residents to go to the polls to ensure that their vote counts on this important matter.

In a mailer to district residents WUHS stated that their “dire financial situation” was caused by underfunding from the state of WI, inflation, and declining enrollment. In truth, Wilmot has lost approximately 21% of their student population due to declining enrollment during the past 10 years. This is a statewide trend and one that is expected to continue in coming years. Do you understand their logic? If student enrollment is up, they need more funds, and if enrollment is down, they still need more funds. Does it ever end?

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According to the WUHS mailer, should this latest operating referendum pass, you can expect your WUHS property tax portion to increase 54% next year alone vs this year’s mill rate—that is an additional $302 for a 150K house, $503 for a $250K home, and $703 for a $350K house over the course of the next three years. That’s not chump change, is it? What could you do with that money in your pocket?

A fair question would be ‘what do we buy with this property tax increase’? They say they will avoid staff reductions and hire back 4.3 FTE teaching positions as well as one custodial position. The staff reductions were in part due to hiring done with ESSER funding (Covid) which has now ended. So how ridiculous is it to make long-term hiring commitments with short-term funding? That, folks, is bad planning.

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In addition, they want to spend $1M on building maintenance, $500K/year for roof replacement, additional money for system and lighting upgrades, Chromebooks, and $300K per year for “future needs” among other things. We can all agree that buildings need to be maintained, but why have they not been taking care of the structure all along? What isn’t mentioned is that the WUHS school board has plans for yet another approximately $10M Building Referendum this year should this operating referendum pass. All these funds going into a building that is housing a sharply declining enrollment.

The plans to bail themselves out of a “dire situation” were caused by an administration that doesn’t know how to budget, doesn’t know how to spend public money, and is oblivious to continued declining enrollment both now and in the years to come. How about a plan to spend and maintain with an eye on the obvious, which is a need to plan expenditures and revenue based on current reality and focused on needs vs. wants. 

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Property owners are faced with the same dilemmas that WUHS is faced with inflation, increased costs, job insecurity, ongoing property maintenance. Yet property owners must find ways to budget and spend to stay within their means. Our Wilmot School Board and their administration need to do the same thing. There is only so much money that property owners can part with, and now is not the time to increase taxes on an over-taxed populace.

Vote “no” on the WUHS Operating Referendum on Tuesday, February 20.

Author

  • John Dalton

    John is enjoying retired life in western Kenosha County, where he grew up and met his beautiful wife. They enjoy spending time with their grandchildren, especially when fishing or swimming in one of the many lakes in the area.

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40 Responses

  1. Yep . Schools are a money pit . There is never enough money for Billy & Suzy to spend 11 hours per day learning everything EXCEPT reading , writing, rythmatic

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    1. As a math teacher who works very hard to teach students mathematics everyday, I am deeply hurt by your comment. I give my heart and soul to the profession and the Trevor-Wilmot community. I also have 3 children who either attend, or will soon attend Wilmot High school. These decisions impact their future and the information in this article is not only incorrect, but it also over simplifies complex budgeting issues caused by the state no longer funding schools the way they used to. I have been a teacher in this area for 10 years and I promise you that if you were to become informed about schools, teachers, and the people who show up day in and day out to do their best to not only educate students, but care for them in ways you can’t even fathom, you would change your mind in a heartbeat. The education of our youth matters and this article is so steeped in ignorance it is heartbreaking!

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  2. There are way too many professional parasites leaching off taxpayers. They’ll dazzle you with their reason ‘it’s for the kids’ while peanuts are spent there and the administration staff keeps growing as the parasites expand their never ending empire.
    Abolish Teacher Unions
    Abolish Public Schools

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    1. Back to the Basics, You are either dumb or ignorant. I am not going to insult you, you pick which one you are.

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  3. Lack of enrollment due to many parents finding out what schools are REALLY teaching….NOTHING, but their own political agenda.

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    1. Good luck selling your home when the School District is failing because people like you would rather spend money on the lottery or at the bar, instead of on the children in the community.

      PS Maybe you should educate yourself before posting?

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        1. If the school starts failing do you think people are not going to take their kids elsewhere? Ask Kenosha Unified how that’s working with the property value of their homes going down just to save a couple bucks on their taxes.

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  4. Can anyone submit a story on this site with false information, or just the Rhinos of Kenosha ?

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    1. What false information is in this story? Please clarify, as I’d like to know the correct information.

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      1. There is information posted in several places. If you are to lazy to read and understand what the true numbers look like, instead of inflating them , that’s your fault.

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  5. “Building maintenance”.

    Hmmm, just like KUSD spent hundreds of thousands of dollars(or more) on renovating Washington middle school with new windows/roof etc., last year.

    This year the same KUSD announced they are closing Washington middle school.

    Yes, they are THAT corrupt and extremely STUPID!

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    1. What does this have to do with Wilmot’s one building?

      Straight from the FAQ section of the WUHS Referendum information page;

      Dedicated levy for building maintenance = $1,000,000.

      Projects with a life expectancy of less than 20 years

      Roof replacements = $500,000 / year

      Security System Upgrades/Cameras = $100,000 every 6-8 years

      LED Lighting Upgrades = $100,000 / year

      Set aside for future needs = $300,000 / year
      Boilers
      Chillers
      Air Handlers
      Parking Lots
      Exterior Maintenance / Tuckpointing
      Windows/Doors
      Plumbing / Electrical systems

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  6. Still not sold on the “why” funds are needed. What has been done to mitigate the current existing costs? The biggest expense is salaries have the salaries and benefits been reviewed and adjusted? Have insurance policies been reviewed / shopped? Have all the suppliers and providers to the school been shopped / compared? Demonstrate / prove out this budget increase is truly needed… At this point I’m voting “NO”.

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    1. Again, check the FAQ page

      11. What has already been done to manage the budget?
      Elimination of 22 staff positions in 2023

      Reduction in administrative and assistant positions

      Reduction in starting wages for support staff positions

      Pay freezes for multiple employee groups in 2022

      Change in health insurance carrier and health insurance plan design multiple times

      Other reductions in the cost of employee benefits

      Prepaid debt

      Installation of energy efficient lighting in 2015

      Modernization of HVAC controls

      Elimination of late busses

      Increased student fees

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      1. The 400,000 sq ft building is oversized for 940 students. Studies show 260 sq ft per student needed for overall high school size. Even rounding way up to 300,000 sq ft is sufficient. Massive building leads to massive bills including maintenance and utilities. Rent some of it out or consolidate. Vote NO

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        1. What are they supposed to do, shrink the building? You propose to punish students and teachers by limiting their resources because you feel the building they operate in is too large? That does not make any sense. So many people act like this doesn’t personally impact children and they are wrong. The students attending this school shouldn’t have to suffer. Simply closing a portion of the building to save on cost is an option to help, but it certainly won’t cover all that is needed.

  7. The voters “hired” the school board.
    That’s on the voters.

    The school board hires the administrators.
    Again, that’s on the voters.

    The administrators are typically educators not necessarily “business” people.
    Educators manage teachers/people.
    Business people manage tax dollars.

    This guy is your education administrator not your business administrator.

    DR. MICHAEL PLOURDE

    Graduated from: Northern Michigan University (BS in Mathematics Secondary Education), George Williams College (MA in Education Leadership), and Aurora University (Doctorate in Educational Administration)

    Administrators of this type rely on others to tell them whether it’s better to replace a roof versus repairing it. Same with HVAC. Kitchen appliances. Lighting.

    So what does Wilmot need? Not more money.
    It needs a business boss that understands Money !!

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    1. Is that why WUHS had a roof study done? To replace the roof is well north of $5M. Based on the phased plan proposed by Tremco, only the sections of roof that really need repaired would be repaired while other sections that are newer would be pushed out. Money would be dedicated to preventive maintenance that would extend the life of the roof.

      WUHS brought in a consulting firm, at no cost to taxpayers unless the district chooses to not use them as the general, then a fee of around $3K would be paid. I don’t recall the exact number, but it was discussed at a board meeting, check YouTube, to opt for this instead of paying a different consulting firm somewhere around $12K upfront.

      On a side note, the business boss you’re referring to could be the retired BM the district brought back on a part time basis at a savings to the taxpayer instead of paying a full-time BM. That was discussed at one of the last meetings, check YouTube for actual discussion.

  8. You mean to tell me they didn’t suck enough money from the tax payer for the state of the art football field, baseball field, tennis courts, weight room, etc. etc. etc. that was the last big “increase” they stuck to us. If only Jimmy were still around to allegedly chase the girls on the soccer team. What ever happened to Trottier? Is he still principle?

  9. Since you seem to have all the answers why don’t you run for the school board?
    Do you understand how school funding from the state goes? It’s always amazing that citizens think you can run a school district like a business when it comes to funding and that couldn’t be further from the truth.
    Put your money where your mouth is and run for school board position!

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    1. I don’t have all the answers.

      Why don’t you write a oped on why this should pass ? Put your name right on top ! Kevin’s clearly open to discussion. I’m sure he will post it.

      Expound on all the reasons it should pass and how after three years you will still be able to pay for the new hires. Even after more declining enrollment.

      Or just write a long comment here ?
      No permission necessary. I’m sure you’ve see extra long comments here. Write one.

    2. Where is your opposing oped ?

      Please expound on how we will pay for these new hires after three years.
      Please explain how with Evers, a person who was state school superintendent for many years hasn’t “fixed” this problem.

      Please explain how you will fix declining enrollment.

      No oped ?

      How about just a long written comment here ?

    3. Well let’s see. You want more money put into the school. Even though it’s failing. Some
      Of the highest paid teachers in the state. 13th overall I think. Some of the lowest scores per education. Under expectations. The staff that is in charge has lost control of the kids and the moral of this he school is at an all time low. Zero accountability. The school board has become a popularity contest of people running to save the teachers. Not the kids. Let’s keep giving raises to underperforming teachers. Let’s keep letting Herm run the school into the ground. Knowing he is retiring. Cut positions and start at the top. You will find a lot of money can be saved. But instead you let these slugs drain the budget for their own pockets with again… zero accountability. It’s a domino effect. The worse it’s run. The less money that comes in. The worse the building and programs get. The more kids you lose. The environment there sucks. Time to have a turnover at the top. Young blood that wants to teach, coach and lead would help.

      No one wants to talk about the comparison study that took place with Waterford, Union Grove, and westosha. Somehow there were more employees at Wilmot than any of the other schools. Somehow Wilmot had the smallest enrollment. Somehow Wilmot employees were paid higher than any of the other schools. And the list goes on and on and on. But as soon as board members were in there and looking into all this, the town blew up and voted certain members out to save the teachers and who loses down the road? Everyone. The kids. There community. And eventually the teachers. Time to bring back accountability. Dump the dead weight. No need for so many staff members when you’re losing 60-80 kids to westosha every year.

      1. Replacing Herm can’t happen soon enough. That will be the second most important hire the school has made since the new DA replaced Kopp.

        Last time I heard, there’s 2 or 3 seats open on the SB. Sounds like there’s a few candidates chiming in on the conversation 🙂

  10. Did anyone notice that the business manager that started this issue is back?? Incompetent admin and misuse of public money across all facets. Parent-run sports programs and all-around lack of character. I sympathize for the kids, but throwing money at a personnel problem is not an effective solution.

    The state should audit Dave Betz and Dan Kopp…

  11. A lot of bellyaching but light on facts.

    Some of the criticism is spot on but some is misguided. (I said “misguided” instead of “wrong” because some facts have to be considered in their context to make sense.)

    What we generally know is that enrollments are down across the state and that state school aid based on revenue is also declining. Inflation is a real concern. The schools, the corner bakery or bar and families all know that prices for just about anything these days have gone up. So, what does this mean?

    First, just because there may be fewer students doesn’t mean costs will be proportionately reduced. Think of it like this. Suppose there were 28 students in a class at one time and now there are 24 and maybe in a couple of years 21. If there are 21 students in the class that doesn’t mean costs will be 25% less. There will be one teacher to be paid regardless. The classroom will still have to be heated, electricity provided and cleaning and maintenance done. And that will occur at a time when state aid based on enrollment is down, taxing authority stagnant and prices rising.

    Even if enrollment is down the school building will need to be maintained, heated and electricity provided. There may be a little bit of savings if there are unused classrooms and if fewer textbooks or computers need to be purchased. There may also be some staff reductions but probably not as many as you might think. (Remember, you still need one teacher regardless of whether there are 28 or 21 students in a class. There could be 20% fewer students eating lunch but you still need kitchen staff, etc.)

    Now let’s look at the other shoe and Kenosha Unified is a good example (of bad planning and management, to be sure).

    Kenosha is closing school buildings and getting rid of some to adjust for declining enrollment. Makes sense but there is a Trojan horse.

    This is premised on declining enrollment. What if the birth rate shoots up? A bunch of new businesses move into the area and more families move in or build homes?? Then what???

    The postwar baby boom meant a lot of new schools were built in the 1950’s and 1960’s because, obviously, the space was needed. In the context today of closing schools and getting rid of them there is no magic crystal ball but suffice to say that new construction won’t be cheap. Honestly, it’s a between the rock and a hard place position to be in but fair to mention it here. Especially as politicians hate to be honest with people about taxes and spending. Instead of going for a $200 filling today they’ll claim to be saving money until they wind up having to buy a $2,000 crown (and maybe a root canal on top of it).

    Now with this in mind let’s go back to the poor management which exacerbates the situation Mr. Dalton mentioned. It’s a fair question to ask where’s the capital improvement and maintenance plan to incrementally provide for upkeep and replacement of facilities as needed. Skipping the $200 fillings and then being forced to buy $2,000 crowns down the road isn’t good management. It’s horrible.

    But, if you need the $2,000 crown then don’t have any other viable options. You’re stuck. And that’s what happens when politicians aren’t honest with the people. By the same token, voters need to realize that even with good management costs will increase and the bills need to be paid. Poor management makes doing it more painful if not indeed disgusting.

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    1. No new buildings needed
      Keep existing facilities in good repair
      No new teachers

      We are not reinventing the wheel here.
      Managing a school is,
      Make sure the busses run
      Make sure the heat is on
      Make sure the teachers teach what the community approves. Reading. Writing and arithmetic.

      Oh yeah. And how about a constitution class.
      Must pass to graduate. Seems like the time is now where we need to prepare our graduates for whatever our government is going to throw at us.

      I don’t care what side you are on, our students need to understand where we came from.
      And where we could go if we let it

    1. Abolish teachers unions as well. We have to pay for these people year round, why not make them clean the school and learn to replace the roof during the summer

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  12. Schools are primarily funded by a complicated formula from the state budget based on the number of students attending. Wilmot HS, like most schools in the state has seen declining enrollment due to a variety of factors from around 1400 to 900 students. That is a dramatic decrease in funding. The building still needs to heated, maintained and operated. Costs are going up for everything. Also test scores have shown because of the COVID lockdown a few years ago nearly 1/2 of the freshmen coming into the high school are at least one grade behind in reading and about 1/3 in math scores. These are basic skills required to be successful in other pursuits and in life. Wilmot has never passed an operating referendum before, whereas over 1/2 the other high schools in Wisconsin have. This Referendum is critical to the operation of the school and maintaining its high scholastic standing. If we fail our kids, we fail our future.

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