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Vote NO on Bristol School Referendum: Opinion

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In Bristol School District #1, there is an operating referendum on next Tuesday’s ballot, along with a race for 2 school board seats. Just two short years ago, Bristol voters agreed to a $22.3 million building referendum, but they voted against an operating referendum one year ago, in April of 2023. Now the school board has their hand out again for a third referendum in just three years.  They voted 4-1 to ask the taxpayers for permission to redirect $700,000 each year for the next two school years from debt service to pay for ongoing operational expenses. State law requires school districts to ask voters for permission to do this via a ballot question. 

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Campaigns for and against this referendum are heating up in the Bristol school district as “Vote NO” and “Vote YES” yard signs continue popping up around the community. Led, in part, by current school board members Corie Bies and Danielle Whitaker, the Bristol Votes Yes group has also sent out mailers, email, and text messages. They have an active Facebook group promoting the cause, and they recently set up a referendum hotline. 

District administrator Jack Musha claims that this is a simple accounting change that will not cost taxpayers any money or raise the mill rate. They want to take money that they had planned to use to pre-pay debt and use it now for things like staff wages and salaries, maintenance, and curriculum updates. The school has also sent email and fliers to area families and community members to explain the purpose of the referendum.

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The message of the Bristol Votes No group is simple and impactful. There are “Vote NO” signs throughout Bristol.  A powerful direct mail piece hit local mailboxes last week that is fueling the argument that the incompetence of district administrator Jack Musha is largely responsible for the runaway spending that has landed the Bristol School District in their current fiscal bind. While there is no clear name behind this group, they are no less serious about their message calling for fiscal responsibility and spending cuts.

Bristol Votes No asks questions like:

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  1. If this referendum for two years of operating funds passes, what happens in the third year? Will you come to the taxpayers again for yet another handout?
  2. Why would voter approval be required by law if this was not going to affect taxpayers? Is the district being totally honest?
  3. Local families and seniors have to live within their means, why shouldn’t Bristol School have to do the same? 
  4. We are all forced to make sacrifices in this inflationary time, why shouldn’t the school have to cut back, too? What excessive costs have been cut before begging the taxpayers for more money?
  5. Why did Bristol School hire people to work in ongoing positions with temporary federal covid funds (ESSER)? They knew the money would run out, and now they are asking taxpayers to pick up the bill for their poor planning?
  6. Why does Bristol School blame the state for cutting funding when the state increased K12 funding in the current budget?

Bristol Votes No is asking for accountability. The truth is, not staying on a plan to pre-pay debt means that the loans WILL cost taxpayers more in interest in the long run. Supporters of the referendum seem to be conveniently leaving this part out. Musha has claimed that the district will be forced to turn to expensive short-term borrowing to meet operating budget shortfalls if the referendum fails. However, there has been little effort on his part or the part of the school board to reduce spending to make up that potential deficit. Bristol Votes No asks if the referendum is more to fund the administrator’s wish list than to address a deficit.

Wisconsin’s school funding formula is beyond complicated. Some funding for schools comes from state aid, while the local school district levies property taxes to cover the remaining costs. The state limits how much districts can demand of taxpayers based on the formula, which incorporates property values among other variables. Musha makes several claims in his website videos that Bristol is “punished” for having high property values. However, this is not true. 

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The state uses an “equalization” formula to determine what portion of school funding can be raised by the local tax levy and what portion will come from the state. Districts with higher property values get less state equalization aid in the formula, but they are allowed to tax their property owners on a scale proportionate to make up the difference. As property values increase, the local levy may increase, and the state funding decreases. Bristol school district does not want to tell you that growing values means they can tax you more. They also conveniently leave out that declining enrollment equates to less revenue. Enrollment has been on the decline for a decade, and the district should be planning for that each year, not expecting taxpayers to pay increased taxes each year to educate less students.

Musha also claims that state aid has not “kept up with inflation.” However, inflation has far outpaced wages across the country and in Wisconsin for the past three years, not just in schools. Increasing funding at the local level or at the state level means HIGHER TAXES for Wisconsinites. Money from the “state” does not come from a money tree. Whether raised locally or distributed by the state, school funding comes directly from taxpayers. Musha does not acknowledge this at all, and blames his own leadership failures on the state instead.

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Supporters of the referendum also claim that the state should use the budget surplus to increase school funding. However, in the 2023-25 biennial budget, the Legislature increased public K-12 funding by a record $1 BILLION. They added a per-pupil increase of $325/year for each year of the next school years, and Governor Evers used the partial veto to make that $325/year applicable every year for the next 402 years! The state budget also includes a 3% increase in special education cost reimbursements. Still not enough to fund Bristol School District?

Concerned citizens also have raised eyebrows at the involvement of current board elected officials in a political campaign supporting the referendum and whether or not there is a legal conflict of interest. There are unanswered questions about the sharing of information between the Bristol Votes Yes group and the Bristol School District. In her capacity as a board member of the local non-profit Growing with Bristol, Bies came under fire in 2022 on social media for claims of fraudulent financial activity.

Current board members Corie Bies and Adam Scheele, who supported the referendum vote, are not seeking re-election. Candidates Linda Mizwicki and Matthew Ley have openly supported the “Bristol Vote Yes” campaign. Bies and board member Danielle Whitaker are supporting Mizwicki and Ley in the election. Candidates Nicole Starke and Joanne Gray have been more conservative about the referendum. All four candidates are new to this process, never having served on this school board in the past.

If you ask any school board member in Wisconsin to explain how exactly public schools are funded, it’s likely their face may start to twitch. Their eyes may dart around the room, looking for someone who can rescue them. They might pause, stutter, and simply reply that “it’s really complicated.” 

In truth, it IS really complicated. However, school board members decide how much to spend, where to spend it, and how much to tax us to pay for those choices. Too often, they only have a vague idea of how the funding formula works. Too often, superintendents and district administrators blame their budgetary shortcomings on the state because they lack the necessary business acumen to apply the funding formula to a strategic plan that accurately forecasts both the short and long term impacts of all of the variables that comprise that formula. 

In one of his videos, Musha states that they will have to take a “deep dive” into district spending if the referendum fails. Shouldn’t that have been the first step? Why didn’t they do that already? It’s time for the Bristol School District to look inward for opportunities to save money. It’s time to elect board members who represent the community’s needs to the school, not members who beg the community to pay for the administrator’s mistakes. 

Vote “NO” on the Bristol School District #1 referendum, and vote yes for school board candidates who stand for fiscal responsibility – Nicole Starke and Joanne Gray.

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45 Responses

  1. Amen. “It’s the spending, stupid” this is going to be the mantra for this referendum. An excellent point has been made on how many new and reoccurring spending items were started up with temporary so-called covid money. This is how the left works start something for a year and then come back to raise taxes to make it permanent. Same business model as the ’60s and ’70s heroin peddlers used when they gave away the first “sample” or two.

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    1. yes and same thing the feds tried to do with medicaid back when Walker was gov. and that’s why he rejected the money.

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  2. Thank you for the article. Unfortunately, the “vote yes” people. including school
    board members and administration are peddling false information. I hope everyone shares this article. We need the community to step up and vote no. I was already voting no because there has been zero discussion about ways the school has already made cuts or adjustments and they keep threatening to cut teachers and staff instead . I don’t want to see anyone lose their job but the school should be able to provide a quality education with the money they receive. Keep voting yes for referendums and they will keep spending!!!

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  3. Like so many things, the truth could be somewhere in between.

    The referendum proponents need to do a better job of explaining this — and one thing in particular is the ultimate cost of deferred maintenance.

    The opponents need to LISTEN because far too often taxpayers wind up getting stuck with a huge bill down the road because of a failure to fix a problem when it was more affordable.

    The Bristol district isn’t that big that someone can’t sit down with a spreadsheet, crunch the numbers and explain this instead of pitting neighbors against neighbors.

    1. YES! Keep the masses uneducated! Educated people ask too many questions. Critical thinking harms our movement.

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        1. They are educating on how to be a tranny and have mental issues. They also train on how to become a communist.

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      1. You sound uneducated yourself, if you think the schools are graduating educated persons. When people say get rid of the schools, they mean replace them with institutions of learning instead of indoctrination and social grooming.

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  4. So No increase to my taxes ,,,,,,,,,, why wouldn’t I vote yes? Unless you are one of those people who chooses to bury your head in the sand and pretend schools across Wisconsin are not severely underfunded. It doesn’t take much to blame a school without ever attending a single meeting. So sick of the uneducated mouth breathers who believe once their kids are done with school they no longer have a responsibility to other children in the community. The Vote NO crowd is not interested in doing anything unless it benefits themselves.

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    1. Taking money from debt service to pay for operational expenses WILL cost taxpayers more in the long run. Why would they have to go to referendum if it wasn’t going to cost us money?? Open your eyes. Inflation is high, wages haven’t caught up. The school needs to live within its means. Teach them this with a no vote, otherwise they will spend as they like and keep the referendums coming.

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      1. I’ve had 4 kids that were Educated in Kenosha County and graduated from college. I also served many years on a school board. Perhaps if more people did so there would’t be so much ignorance on how schools are funded.

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        1. I’ll be voting no. It’s not that difficult to spend within your means. There’s been no attempt at cutting spending- money doesn’t fix money problems.

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    2. Why not say how much money is going for each thing in need. 700 thousand a year and u can add all these things that will see some of this money but no one wants to mention how much for each. So 600 for teachers and 100 for everyone else? No one knows. That’s all hush hush. This is a sales pitch to steal money from a designated account to fund more salaries. How but stop creating jobs you don’t need. Since when do we need all these administrative positions. We should follow around all the admin staff and see just what they all do each and every day. Let me guess. Send emails back and forth as to who will deal with what issue. Oh and more funding for teachers who seem to get more and more days off each year. Extra day here. Early release there. Why don’t we talk about ways to make money by use of the school. Instead we allow board menu to make money on the tax payers behalf by use of the school free of charge. Does everyone have that ability or just the board members and staff. A grade school does not need a work out facility that is free of charge for staff and board members and sure as hell doesn’t need a board member running classes for kids and charging them. That’s a conflict of interest. Let’s talk about the dean/AD position that was created. You mean to tell me that we need a principal and a dean for our students. And last time I checked the AD at a grade school doesn’t exactly have a lot of teams to worry about. In fact most everything is already scheduled so again, Is this part of the problem. We have to much money going out to people who really don’t have that much to do? 🤔. Vote NO. And start holding leadership accountable just like every other job in America has to do.

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      1. Or “Educated” you could go to a board meeting and request the actual information instead of assuming you understand? Despite what you have been spoon-fed, everything is not a conspiracy.

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      2. Bingo! Wasteful spending needs to stop and until there is an attempt at cutting costs, we should be voting NO.

    3. Please educate us on how much money is going where!!! Since the mouth breathers are sick of giving these clowns an open check book.

      1. You could go to the annual meeting where they go over the budget in great detail ( and even give people who attend the meeting a copy of the budget] You can also Request the annual budget from the school. But sounds like you rather take the easy/lazy way and complain without knowing any of the details.

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        1. Lazy way? Like stealing from Peter to pay Paul? Cut spending and quit stealing from taxpayers- that is being lazy.

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  5. all public schools should be closed, waste of time and currency. does anyone believe schools are worth what you are paying for? crickets

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  6. With children still at Bristol school I’ll be voting a hard NO!
    I’ll be voting NO against Jack Musha and his lack of leadership and not having the balls to make cuts at the administrative level for admin staff that was hired and not needed. For letting pedo/sex books to be checked out from the online library.
    I’ll be voting NO because Bristol School does not need (2) IT people that can’t even have computers working properly for forward testing last week.
    I’ll be voting NO to having (3) HR people. (1) full time and (2) part timers (who keeps track of their time at home?). Let us not forget the huge raise that one HR received who sounds like a bumbling idiot at school board meetings. Good grief was their tax credits for hiring her?!?!
    I’ll be voting NO to a principal that signs her name with “her”,”she””hers” as her pronouns.
    I’ll be voting NO to a principal, a vice principal and dean of students…(3) positiions for (1) needed position
    I’ll be voting NO because I voted NO a year ago and this administration and board think the people were wrong and instead of making hard decisions they come back again with their hands out because they are piss poor leaders.
    What are Bristol’s attorney fees for their horseshit lawyer that threatens parents and reporters that question the board, the administrator and sends threatening letters to those that question the stupidity of the board and administrator?
    How much did Bristol school pay Holly Graf to go away after breaching her contract many times over including having an affair with
    Lauren Woolard (former school board president that got Holly her job and voted for raises on her lovers behalf). What did Musha and the board do to protect staff, students, parents from that monster? They didn’t, they allowed staff to be stalked and a parent to be wrongfully jailed. No leadership, deaf ears.
    I’ll be voting NO because I don’t want billboards put up in downtown Kenosha advertising for diversity to open enroll in my children’s school and destroy more than liberalism already has. Yes, Bristol enrollment is down. Because it’s turned into a shit school.
    I’ll be voting NO because Gayle Ryczek is rolling in his grave to see the school he loved and cared for turned to shit by a bunch of pansies that engage in group think and have zero common sense. Echo chambers are useless.
    I’ll be voting NO not because I don’t support my children but no to a group of failures that don’t know how to lead. (Except you Tina). You assholes on the board keep trying to intimidate and shun her can go fuck yourselves.
    Lastly, I guarantee all of these board members except Tina have had their Covid shots and boosters. Does this make them bad? No. It makes them sheep that can’t think for themselves. How can you lead when you can’t even make good decisions for yourselves. You should all quit, for the betterment of our children.
    Your days as admin are numbered Musha. Quit. Quit threatening to leave and do it already. Trying to sneak a raise in before the election is pretty low. We get a couple good ones on that board and you can bet I’ll be pushing behind the scenes to find your replacement sooner than later.





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    1. Wait, Bristol’s principal uses pronouns? Does she also encourage the little kids at that school to identify as the opposite sex and then instruct
      teachers to keep it all a secret from the parents? That’s what these woke “leaders” are pushing in grade schools these days: keeping secrets from parents.
      I know for a fact it’s happening at Brookwood Grade School. Is it happening at Bristol too? Salem Grade School? Home school is the smartest choice.

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      1. Yes. Definitely signs using her pronouns. That’s how we knew the Bristol Board failed us again at the time of her hire. But we can thank the nut bag and Covid lock down promoter with a serpents tongue Stephanie Butenhoff, home wrecker and scissor champion Lauren woolard, Covid Activist and crayon eater Sue Kratowicz for hiring the ones that rot the school from the inside out.

        The hive mind is real and that hive mind is a mind without God. It’s a sickness and what’s at stake is who we want our children to be when they grow up. The “leaders” are the just the opposite and they will pull anything good down with them as they themselves slip into the abyss.

    2. Umm what happened in your timeline to the part Mills played in 99% of what happened. Musha wasn’t in charge during the Graf debacle.

      1. No, but members of this school board and Musha let the demon get away whatever she wanted for far too long while letting students, faculty and parents be harassed. Had many emails that the none of the board ever responded to. Milz let it happen too, I know.

    3. Well said “ lifetime Bristol resident “! I as well am a lifetime Bristol resident and currently have a child enrolled in Bristol school. I voted no, not because I don’t care about my child or even the teachers. But because of the greedy administration pigs at the top trying to blackmail us by using our kids to hand over ransom money to them. I can’t hardly expound on your speech. Brilliant and too the point

      1. Thank you for the kind words. Please encourage and support Tina and our newly elected leaders to do what needs to be done. Cuts, cuts, more cuts and non-renewals . There will be plenty of mouth breathers pressuring them to keep the status quo going but I have a feeling these free thinking, conservative women will make Bristol like Paris rather than KUSD as it is now. Expound away!!

  7. The basic “old school” trick is to have one referendum start up just as an old referendum is being paid off. They come at you and say that this new referendum will not cost you any more money this will just keep your taxes the same. On its face if you say it really fast yes, it’s not going to cost you anymore money. But in reality it is. Because you just paid off a 20 year referendum and now your taxes should revert back down to those basic needs.

    So when they say it won’t cost you anymore , it’s actually a lie because it should cost you less at that pay off.

    Now they’re saying they’re going to stop their plan of paying off a previous referendum early and instead let it ride out the full length. (though have they said that ?)
    I’m trying to understand how that works. I understand but I don’t ?? Why are they saying that they’re going to take the $700,000 from what was budgeted to “pre-pay debt” ?

    Was this “pre-paying debt” something that they told us on a previous referendum ? To get us to say YES then ?
    It’s admirable to prepaid debt, but it seems that is when you can, not as a predetermined plan.

    They say they have “budgeted to pre-pay”. Why would they have done that? Is it because they said a few years ago or 10 years ago that they were doing so well they were going to take a 20 year note and pay it off in 10 ? Pay off the debt early ?
    The term “pre-paid debt” is curious to me.

    So again, it’s a lie that this is not going to cost you anymore because the whole point of prepaying a debt is to save on interest for a number of years and that’s an expense. They’re not just putting off the expense, they’re actually “extending” the expense.

    And back to the other point that the author made, they took temporary money and hired permanent staff. Not a great business model, public or private. Should’ve taken that one time money and bought one time things , whatever that may have been. Tables, chairs, books, sports equipment, land. One time expenses for one time money.

    So I’m voting NO and telling them to tighten their belt just like everybody else.

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    1. Now the staff hired with temporary money is going to stay and the administration won’t fill vacancies left by retiring teachers. Causing classroom sizes to be bigger, unnecessarily putting more stress on the teachers.

    1. This comment shows you have no idea what you are talking about. Neither one of those board members are running again.

  8. Can someone explain to me why Wilmots high school referendum was voted on during a “primary” and Bristol’s will be during the general election ?

    Almost seems like voter shopping.

    All voting should be in November when the turn out is the highest.
    Though people should vote every time, they don’t

    1. It’s a strategic call to get their referendums to pass. Wilmot banked on getting supporters (school families) out to vote just for the referendum and figured most would stay home.
      If you want your voice to be heard, you should vote in every election. That’s your responsibility, it’s not that hard.

  9. All this restorative justice and DEI garbage made me pull my kids out of that cess pool. If I have to pay more, I’d rather it be on a better education than more indoctrination.

  10. We could hope that one day the progressives would grow a brain and realize the destruction they have done. Fat chance. Thank god one day they will reap what they sow

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