Oconomowoc schools $75M referendum among 82 statewide on April ballot

Leaders of the Oconomowoc Area School District want taxpayers to fix deteriorating buildings and cramped classrooms by approving a $75 million referendum on the April ballot.

It could be easier to approve than you might think.

Oconomowoc High School’s band room has lost its tune.

"Their practice spaces and where they prepare are outdated and in desperate need of renovation as the programs continue to grow," said Principal Jason Curtis.

Curtis said spaces like art class are cramped and can’t fit the thousand students wanting to take the course. On April 4, voters will decide if they want to pay for renovations and expansions.  The Oconomowoc Area School District is asking for a combined $75 million for upgrades at the high school and at Ixonia Elementary.

"For a community member who has a house around $350,000, that comes out to just about just under $25 a year impact on their tax bill," said Superintendent Mike Sereno.

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Sereno also hopes to use taxpayer dollars to replace the building’s original, 60-year-old steam-based heating and cooling system. Replacing this system creates its own set of challenges – with asbestos.

"If we replace the boiler, we will replace all the ductwork throughout the building," said Sereno.

It all adds up. On top of that, taxpayers previously approved a district facilities referendum in 2016. 

Wisconsin Education Association Council President Peggy Wirtz-Olsen said even with another tax increase, the odds are still in the district’s favor.

"With three out of four passing in the November election," said Wirtz-Olsen. "That statistic has been pretty consistent with what we’ve seen over the past couple of years."

Wirtz-Olson said there are 82 school referendums throughout the state on the April ballot. If they fail in Oconomowoc, district leaders said cuts and deferred maintenance would be inevitable.

"And I think that’s a navigation we’ll have to go down as a team and community," said Curtis.