Shorewood School District voters approved a two-question referendum April 2 that will address $65 million in capital improvements and $275,000 to pay for the capital improvements' operating expenses and annual maintenance.
Unofficial results show the first question passed 3,025 (61%) to 1,961 (39%), while the second question passed 3,288 (66%) to 1,666 (34%).
“We are grateful to the Shorewood community members for their strong support of our schools,” said Paru Shah, Shorewood School Board president, in an email to North Shore Now. “We are excited to move forward with these much needed improvements to our historic facilities, and look forward to continuing to engage our community in this process.”
“We would like to thank all of the Shorewood residents who took the time to attend our community workshops and our referendum information sessions,” said Shorewood Schools Superintendent Bryan Davis, also in an email to North Shore Now. “Community participation has been so important in this process. Our team is looking forward to proceeding with the next steps for these improvement projects at our schools.”
The first referendum question will cover $65 million in capital projects in all district schools. Safety, security, Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessibility, building systems and infrastructure upgrades will be done at all schools. Lake Bluff and Atwater Elementary Schools will see learning space renovations. Shorewood High School will receive a small expansion to its main academic building.
The second question will cover $275,000 per year for maintenance costs in all district schools starting in the 2019-20 school year. The funds will cover the maintenance of the $65 million in capital projects and ongoing annual costs. These annual costs include roof work, HVAC and asphalt and masonry work at all district schools.
The referendum's tax impact is 31 cents per $1,000 of fair market value for both questions. A homeowner with a $300,000 property would pay $93 more annually in school taxes over the current district tax rate.
A community survey conducted ahead of the vote showed 69 percent of the 1,294 responses from residents supported the $275,000 operating referendum question while 58 percent said they would support the $65 million in capital projects question.
The referendum process started in February 2016 with a three-day community summit attended by more than 100 community members. One of the top five priorities that attendees identified was modernizing and maintaining the district's historic schools, of which three of the four district schools are over 90 years old. The district then started facilities planning to identify improvements to all four schools.
According to the district, the plan "impacts all students and all schools in the district; demonstrates fiscally responsible stewardship of our historic buildings; provides safe, accessible and energy-efficient learning spaces and provides a community-driven solution to current and future needs."
Sarah McEnearney, a resident with two children who graduated from the district, said she voted for the referendum. McEnearney said she was part of the community summit in February 2016 that identified the facilities planning as a need.
McEnearney said that passing the referendum is important because having strong schools means strong real estate values and past budgets were unable to handle past facilities needs.
"I vote yes because we have 2,100 kids in the district. We want to keep enrollment high. Education is competitive, and we want people to continue to move to Shorewood for the schools," McEnearney said.
Nate Cade, a Shorewood resident and attorney who used to serve on the Shorewood School Board's former finance committee, said he voted no. He said he was concerned about the size of the referendum.
Cade said he also was concerned about the amount of debt that would be incurred if the referendum would be passed in case other issues come up in the future.
"No one is disputing that work needs to happen on buildings, that there are maintenance issues. The problem becomes is they have not identified how those dollars are to be spent. We have not identified as a community what we believe to be the priorities," Cade said.
According to a news release from the district, design work will begin immediately and the projects will be competitively bid in early 2020. Construction work will begin in spring 2020 with anticipated completion by summer 2023.
The district will work with construction manager Miron Construction Co. Inc. and architect Eppstein Uhen Architects in the coming weeks to begin moving forward on project planning. All projects throughout the construction process will be competitively bid.
The district also said in a news release it is committed to continuing transparent communication throughout the entire facilities improvement process, and will engage the community and staff as the design phase moves forward. Design and construction updates can be found at www.shorewoodschools.org/facilities/ (include the forward slash at the end of the link).
Shorewood Schools referendum
Question 1 (capital projects)
Question 2 (operating expenses)
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel