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Friday, June 21, 2024
The referendum will increase the budget for the Madison Metropolitan School District by $26 million over the next four years. The increased funding will be paid for through a property tax increase.

The referendum will increase the budget for the Madison Metropolitan School District by $26 million over the next four years. The increased funding will be paid for through a property tax increase.

Voters approve referendum to raise funding for Madison schools

Despite an overwhelming focus on the outcome of national races, Election Day is also important for local ballot initiatives such as a referendum to increase the budget for public schools in Madison. The referendum passed Tuesday with 74.2 percent of the vote.

The referendum will increase the budget for the Madison Metropolitan School District by $26 million over the next four years. The increased funding will be paid for through a property tax increase, which will bring in $5 million each of the next two years and $8 million each of the two years after that. The increase will impact the average property taxpayer by $36 per year.

According to Madison Metropolitan School Board Member Ed Hughes, the referendum began as a result of the need to give the school district authority to exceed state-imposed revenue caps. Revenue caps are set by the governor and state legislature in the biennial budget, and determine how much school districts can spend per student each year.

These revenue caps were first set in the state budget in 1993. According to Hughes, the caps were generally increased over time for an approximate additional $200 per student per year. That trend changed under the Walker administration however, and revenue limits are now lower than they were in 2009.

Without the referendum, the school district would have faced $12 million in cuts for the 2017-’18 school year, as well as similar cuts in future years. Hughes also said that without the referendum funding increase, the school district would have had to cut 120 employees, even if salaries were frozen.

According to the school district’s website, a denial of the referendum would have forced the district to scale back programs that focus on narrowing achievement gaps for low-income and minority students.

“[The referendum] will hopefully enable us to avoid making a whole lot of cuts that we otherwise would likely have to make,” Hughes said.

Instead, the school district will reap the benefits of additional funding, such as smaller class sizes. The increase will amount to $240 per student per year, says Hughes, well within the range of increases prior to the Walker administration.

“We’ve got a very supportive community,” Hughes said. “[The referendum] will allow us to reclaim local control over our budget decisions. It will allow us to establish a budget that’s in line with what we think our community wants for its schools.”

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