Wisconsin Voters Approve $946 Million in Referenda on Election Day

Despite shutdowns, virtual classes, and decreasing public school enrollment, voters throughout Wisconsin approved nearly $1 billion in new school spending on November 3.

Local voters from 41 school districts considered 51 school referenda on Election Day and approved 43 of them, an 84.3% success rate. The 43 successful referenda will spend $945.9 million.

The majority of the new spending approved by voters will go to construction projects, with $705 million in new debt for local property owners. Twenty-one of these referenda were proposed and 18 passed, an 85.7% success rate.

Voters considered 20 proposals for non-recurring, or one-time, school spending increases. A non-recurring referendum allows districts to exceed their current spending for a set number of years before returning to original levels after the measure expires. Sixteen of these non-recurring referenda were passed, a success rate of 80%, for a total of $12.47 million.

School districts operate under state-imposed revenue limits that are meant to protect taxpayers from continually-increasing property taxes. However, school districts may ask voters, through referenda proposals, to raise taxes either by issuing debt, or approving continual or one-time spending increases outside of regular limits. New debts and one-time spending increase property taxes for a specific period of time. Recurring spending increases raise the school revenue limits indefinitely and, therefore, also raise local property taxes indefinitely.

Voters considered ten referenda this November for $44.3 million in recurring spending increases. Voters approved nine of these increases, a success rate of 90%, worth a recurring $41.3 million that will roll over year after year.