Muskego School Referendum Fails On the Second Try

Voters vote down new school, renovations to existing facilities.

The revised Muskego-Norway School referendum was placed in the hands of Muskego voters on Tuesday, and this time the answer was again no.

The vote was even further apart than the previous referendum, which failed by about four percent.

The totals were in some areas like Norway nearly 3 to 1 opposed (185 yes, 482 no) to the $29 million proposal, which would have built a new elementary school on the city's east side, and improvements to , and schools.  and Schools would have been closed.

Vote totals (representing a 26 percent turnout):

Yes - 1,849

No - 3,424


Final totals will be certified after the board of canvassers meets tomorrow at City Hall.

Joe Sixpack November 09, 2011 at 06:05 PM
I appreciate your poit of view Denise. Let's be honest though; is it possible to do it after the referendum? On this subject, it will always be before the referendum because there will always be another one right around he corner until it passes. It is not like this is over. You will be covering another one in short order.
Lisa November 09, 2011 at 06:13 PM
Actually there will not be another vote, Ben. If you attended any referendum meetings you would know this. The district formed a committee of citizens after the last vote to discuss the issues. They had special meetings with small groups of citizens to discuss the referendum. The board then developed a new plan. Dr. Schroeder and the board have been clear on one thing...if it didn't pass this time they would not bring it back to voters again. So the referendum issues are done but the school issues are still there. Right now was the best time to go for this because of the economy....they were going to get bonds at 4%. This will never be available again. But if you went to any of the numerous open houses and meetings, you would know this.
JL November 09, 2011 at 06:32 PM
I asked this VERY question at one of the info nights they had for the school and they did provide the answer, the denoon school funding will be paid off in a few years and the high school after that, however it will not make an impact like we would think, costs go up every year and by the time they are paid off other costs will have eating into any funds you get back and if you look at how much you would "save" when somethings paid off its like 5 dollars, remember the new school is estimated to cost 10 dollars a month or 150 dollars a year. most of the current loans at 10 million and under. It seems like its a game each year to find the money to pay for things, with our goofy governor taking away tons of money from all the schools the schools had to find money else were, lowering insurance costs , etc. So the idea is to balance and not go wild with a blank check, look for ways to keep taxes low ,but still provide a service to everyone!
muskego November 09, 2011 at 06:33 PM
What ever happened to good old chalk and a chalkboard?
Bob November 09, 2011 at 07:51 PM
What about capacity? Did you know that Muskego has to outsource its K4 program to preschools and daycares in the community because there is no room to house the kids in schools? What about the fact that there are many new families building homes in the area? Th city is growing, whether you like it or not. This is not about getting a pretty new school. It's about serving the needs of the community. How about you think about your community first instead of yourself. I'll bet you don't even have a kids in the school system anymore. You reaped the rewards of the public services, and now you don't feel the need to pay it forward for future generations.
KC November 09, 2011 at 08:28 PM
People, this vote should never have been about your bias and resentment against teachers and the school district. Any voter should be mature and educated enough to differentiate the difference between the subject of last night's referendum and school district/teacher compensation. The real issue is about providing quality infrastructure that suits the needs of the community. Contrary to what you no voters keep saying, this was not about wasting money on a pretty school, but about meeting capacity and demand within the school system (current and projected) and offering a functional learning environment in good physical condition. And let's be real, people: no amount of grassroots fundraising is going to fund a new school.
Joe Sixpack November 09, 2011 at 08:52 PM
Actually, I think if you do not link the two you are gleefully ignorant. Think of a family of 5 that has $200k in income coming through the door every year and they live in a run down 2 bedroom home with a leaky roof. They spend every dollar they have on vacations, fancy cars, buying horses for the kids, multiple nannies, etc. And now they are going around the neighborhood asking for donations so they can fix up their home. Sure they may need what they are asking for, but until they get their priorities straight, who in their right mind would help them? That is how a lot of the no voters view the school district. I am not going to vote to give more money to an entity that overspends and is flippant with the money they already have. If you cannot see that rationale that is on your own limited abilities and not on the people that voted no. Also, please don't talk about the capacity and demand garbage. Wasn't it just 2-3 years ago when the main argument for district wide 4k was that there was plenty of open space in the classrooms? Now there is going to be massive overcrowding? Please....go sell that nonsense somewhere else.
Deanna Kuhn Knasinski November 09, 2011 at 08:59 PM
I was a NO voter and have attended some of the board meetings etc.. I have four kids in this district, 2 in grade school and 2 in middle school. I have never been so surprised as now and reading some of these postings especially Terry Boyers. I know Terry you worked hard on this project, spent a lot of money but please now respect the wishes of the voters and believe us when we say NO. I don't know how anybody could not have been more informed on this topic, it was constantly rammed down our throats from emails, mailings, newspaper ads, business endorsements, and the worst idea of them all the T-shirts. We all realize the interest rates are awesome but guess what I can't afford to fix my house from 1940 right now so I'm sure as hell not going to vote yes to build a new magical school. Our teachers are wonderful and will still be wonderful whether they have a new classroom or old one. And I'm sorry but they do not give "their life's to us" as previously stated by someone. It's their job that they chose to do, just as a garbage man, janitor, nurse, mechanic etc.. does, we all give ourselves to our careers. No one is holding them hostage here, nor you yes voters, anyone can move at anytime. I'm all for fixing and repairing them as needed, so now let's move on. And I agree with the few on here about Denise as the editor you are a very biased editor, not cool. Also Jay why don't you look into the food pantry here in Muskego or the home foreclosures.
Joe Sixpack November 09, 2011 at 09:00 PM
let us also remember that Hales Corners Lutheran, St. Leonard's and St. Paul's manage to educate their kids for LESS THAN HALF of what Muskego-Norway does. Obviously not everyone can send their kids to these places, but the point is that a first rate education can be provided for about half of what it costs. $11,000 per kid in Muskego schools.....where on earth is that money going? Think about it. $50,000,0000 is being spent in Muskego to educate 4500 kids!!!! And you are trying to tell me you cannot provide for the kids with those numbers? You cannot possibly believe that.
Tiffany November 09, 2011 at 09:01 PM
Ahhhh sixpack....well said. How can you NOT link the two together, is right ! Thankfully over 3,500 of us are not "gleefully" ignorant. :-)
Ben Hogan November 09, 2011 at 09:01 PM
So Linda you are an economics expert. you know when the economy is going to turn around and you also know that bonds will not be available at 4 percent in the future. In that case can you please tell me what a thirty year fixed mortgage rate will be in November of 2012? Answer, you have no idea what they will be. You are simply making assumptions.
Deanna Kuhn Knasinski November 09, 2011 at 09:07 PM
Muskego is in need but not of a new school but food for our own residents, they are in need of help to pay their mortgages, heating bills etc.. Terry and no one is getting laid off, the sky isn't falling. I think you need to take a walk thru of some old Milwaukee, Cudahy, South Milwaukee schools and then come back and tell us how horrible our schools are.....................but then I think you'll appreciate them more."A good old chalkboard"...................lol, they all have Smartboards now, and I love them but our classes are not in a lot of need like Milwaukee districts. So I hope Dr. Schroeder keeps his word now and we all have a good cry and move on. We had 250 applicants I believe for one grade school job posting, we are and still will be the schools of choice!
Tiffany November 09, 2011 at 09:12 PM
I think since Jay is in such a "giving mood" he should make some contributions to our local food pantry and maybe help out some of our citizens that are unemployed. There are MANY that could not afford that extra monthly expense for the schools right now, whether Jay wants to believe it or not.
muskego November 09, 2011 at 09:15 PM
nice, I agree
Angela Peardon November 09, 2011 at 09:28 PM
I doubt any of the "no" voters have ever tried "just updating" an outdated mechanical system in a large building that has had multiple additions and was originally built of solid concrete? We are not talking about replacing a furnace in a 90 year old, 900 square foot rectangle home with an attic, basement, and the area between studs for access. There are numerous physical limitations that make the re-wiring and re-ducting very difficult, if not impossible, and all labor intensive-thus expensive-as compared to new construction. Then there are the environmental remediation costs due to all the regulation involved. Unfortunately many of the materials used during construction 90 years ago are not harmful if left intact, but can cause problems when disturbed during renovation. I understand that environmental factors, and the costs involved in remediating them, were the cause of the former Parkland Mall site renovation turning into a complete demolition where there was no money left in the budget for the developer to proceed as planned. No, not every 90 year old building should be left empty to rot away, however it is so much more costly and difficult to renovate an out of date building over the long run than to tackle new construction. I guess it is too late now to try to get our citizens to realize exactly what is involved in "just fixing it up", since now that is sadly where our hard earned tax dollars are now going to be spent. I fear seeing these bills.
Bob November 09, 2011 at 09:36 PM
Do you understand the difference between an operating budget and a capital budget? Tax dollars cover the day to day operating expenses of public services. The tax base is not sufficient to fund new infrastructure (capital infrastructure). And that is why the school district or elected officials will never be able to address these issues without raising taxes. Thus the referendum. It's a very basic tenet of public infrastructure budgeting. Yet so few people understand it. People have very little understanding of the true costs of providing infrastructure and always assume that money for new projects will come magically from the existing tax base. Yesterday at the polls (I was at two locations), I saw very few voters who actually had kids in the system. The vast majority were over the age of 60. Yet these individuals feel qualified to make poor decisions for the whole. And then there are people like you and Sanchez who don't even have kids in the system yet feel so compelled to ruin it for everyone who actually does use the public education system. If you're not using for the system, then why should you pay, right? Well, where would we be if everyone acted with no concern for their fellow man? It's a very greedy and selfish way of living, every man for himself and who cares if your neighbor can't afford to put his kid in private school.
Bob November 09, 2011 at 09:36 PM
And how about showing a little respect: are you so intellectually superior that you can call people ignorant or consider their views to be "pointless", "garbage" and "nonsense"? How dare you.
Joe Sixpack November 09, 2011 at 09:50 PM
hey bob -- did I miss your post chastising the yes voters for calling the no voters "shameful" "careless" and "idiots"? Yep - - must of missed it. How dare you. You also miss the point....lower the operating budget to find $$ for capital improvements. How hard is that? Also, I never complained about paying my share for something I do not use. I just don't want to pay more. I already pay about $4500 a year to the district and I use nada. That is part of living here and making the choices I made. Don't misconstrue my points or make false statements to further a non existent point. Finally, I am still waiting for one single person to answer how other schools in the area educate for less than half the cost. That is the problem here. Not us no voters that don't want to keep shoveling $$ into a system that is already funded to the eyeballs.
Jay November 09, 2011 at 11:26 PM
No they dont Joe, they are subsidized by the church to the tune of(on average) 50% or more, look at the arch diocese of Milwaukee and what has happened to its schools in the last 15 years, and that is why they were offering a 10-12k education for 5-6k that is why so many of them went out of business.
murphturf11 November 09, 2011 at 11:38 PM
This is absolutely untrue! I am a teacher in the district and though I will not join the banter, I will share my knowledge that this claim of "no teacher in Muskego/Norway school district makes less than $80,000 per year," is absolutely false. You state that is a "pretty good " wage. I agree, but I will tell you that I make no where near that amount. That's all.
Curt November 10, 2011 at 03:19 AM
I've got an idea, how about the parents being held responsible for their children's education?! You had them, why should your decision cost me?? People squirt out kids, expect the American dream, and depend on the rest of the community to help them in their quest. I've yet to read a post from anyone that doesn't just take that for granted. I love kids, please don't get me wrong. But why should I front any expense, against my will, for people that just expect it??
Rick Petfalski November 10, 2011 at 04:20 AM
Joe, I have heard a number of people answer your question on funding, but let me try. I am a product of 13 years of private catholic education. I have sat on and served many private school committees and boards in the last 24 years, so I can speak with some experience. The sponsoring parish, archdiocese or synod subsidizes most private school tuition. The tuition that is paid only covers part of the cost of educating each student. These subsides cover any where from 80 to 20% of the actual cost of each students education. On top of that private schools are not required and do not education students with special needs. Some student’s education costs can fall into the 6-figure range. This will obviously bring up the average cost per student. Let's look at where Muskego-Norway falls into the cost per student compared to other public school districts. The average cost per student in our school district is $10,285. Yes that is a lot of money. The average for Waukesha County is $10,363. The statewide average is $10,836. So as you see we are lower than the state and county average. Could/can we do better? Absolutely. Our current board is constantly finding ways to save money.
Rick Petfalski November 10, 2011 at 04:39 AM
This past Monday we changed health insurance carriers, increased the percentage that staff pays towards their insurance (keep in mind that our staff has been paying 10% of its health insurance for years. I agree it's less than the private sector, by 10% more than most school staff members were paying elsewhere) increased co-pay's and deductibles. This lead to a $2,000,000.00 annual savings for the district and taxpayers. Earlier this year we eliminated automatic "lane change increases" for staff, saving more funds. These are merely two examples of the many steps that this current board has done while trying to make sure we are spending your hard earned money as responsibly as possible. Yes there is more that can and will be done. As you can see Gov. Walkers changes are working. What they won't do is fix our infrastructure needs. They have allowed us to make do with much less state aid, and that’s a good. People keep saying our taxes keep going up, but that is not necessarily true. For demonstration purposes, the average 2010 home assessment in Muskego was $291,300. That home will pay a little over $2400 in school taxes in 2011. In 2004, my first year on the school board, that same home paid a little over $2600 in school taxes. So as you can see, school taxes have actually gone down by 6.4% in the last 7 years, and the value of that same home has increased 33.4%.
Rick Petfalski November 10, 2011 at 04:44 AM
That being said, I will respect the wishes of the community and as I said before this past referendum, if the revised plan does not pass, I will not support a new effort while I'm on the board. I would encourage all of the "No" voters to come to our meetings and help guide us in which areas to cut, so we can address many of the facility needs. Everything is open for discussion. I think you will be surprised on which areas we have made cuts to already. Thanks!
Angela Peardon November 10, 2011 at 05:06 AM
Thank you Rick for providing some valuable insight into the operating budget of our district. I do believe the board and administration published this type of information numerous times in the mailings the district sent to taxpayers over the past several years while planning the referendum. It's just such a shame that the citizens with the uninformed comments on this board obviously didn't bother to read any of that valuable information or attend one of the many meetings and information sessions on the subject, but can spend so much time arguing their points on this message board with only their uninformed opinions as a basis. My thanks, support and future votes will continue to go to our wonderful board and administration as long as they choose to continue to serve us!
muskego mom November 10, 2011 at 02:36 PM
Well put Warriors Mom. I also have 3 kids in the district one at Tess Corners and voted no. I'm glad some of you put my thoughts into words.
Joe Sixpack November 10, 2011 at 02:57 PM
Thanks for addressing the issue, Rick. I also have direct experience in the private school arena as it relates to cost and tuition. You seem to be conflating cost and tuition. The cost is how much is 'costs' to educate each student; ie, the total amount the school spends on everything divided by the number of students. The tuition is obviously what the school charges to attend. As you mention, the tuition is what is subsidized, not the cost. The cost per student at my kids school is about $5,200/year. The tuition is less than that because it is subsidized as you mentioned, but the cost is the cost is the cost...it has nothing to do with subsidies. Muskego spends twice as much to educate a child as do private schools in the area, subsidies or not. I realize that special needs account for some small portion of that, but that is the only appreciable difference. C'mon, Muskego can't the job done for $6,000 a kid? Or $7,000? Or $8,000? Or $9,000? I don't believe that. Slash the top heavy, bloated, overpaid administration to start. Kudos to Muskego for being slightly below the state average but a slightly less ugly dog in an ugly dog contest is still....in the end...an ugly dog. I have never been persuaded by the "it could be worse" line of argument. I understand the steps that have recently been taken are helping to get costs more under control, but there is a long way to go until many no voters feel costs are in line with where they should be.
Rick Petfalski November 10, 2011 at 04:15 PM
It is very difficult to compare public and private schools from a cost stand point. Many private school parents like to point to tuition and compare, which as you and I pointed out is not correct. However, I question your numbers as well. I'm not sure which of the two private schools your children attend, but let's take St. Leonard's as an example. First off you are comparing a elementary school to a whole school district, which is not a creditable comparison. The archdiocese of Milwaukee has a large annual investment in catholic education that your school does not pay for but should be figured into the costs as well. It would be like comparing the costs of only Muskego Elementary to St. Leonard's. There wouldn't be any cost for administration, because your "costs" do not include the costs for the superintendent of catholic schools or that departments costs. You also wouldn't be able to include transportation, which the public school district pay's for or any of the specialist, which are mandated by state law. What you would be left with would be numbers that are a lot closer. Yes the private school would still be considerably less expensive, but not nearly the gap that you portray. So let's be fair when doing comparisons. The costs per student in ALL Wisconsin schools range from over $20,000 per student to a low of about $9300. Considering we are a 4k thru 12 grade system, we are one of the cheaper ones in the state.
Joe Sixpack November 10, 2011 at 04:52 PM
Rick - - let's accept everything you say and your conclusion "Yes the private school would still be considerably less expensive..." So why is that so? Lets just say it is not the gap whcih I have put forth (but it is) you admit it is still considerably less. Why? Even after your admin/busing/special needs considerations it is still considerably less expensive? Why? And please address the bloated admin costs without the "it could be worse" tactic.
School mom November 10, 2011 at 10:18 PM
Why do people assume that if a person voted "no", they must be uninformed? I have attended many of the school board meetings regarding the referendum, visited every school in our district, read all the literature, watched the videos and was an invited member of one of the focus groups. I have children attending schools in the district and have worked in the public education system for the past 7 years. I feel pretty informed and still voted no. Why? Financial responsibility. The term "debt crisis" refers to our own country and many others, I don't want my community following the same path. We still have our outstanding loans for the Lake Denoon and the High School referendum. It is irresponsible to hold three school loans at the same time. The Lake Denoon debt will be satisfied in 2014, at that time I would be glad to vote "yes". There is a definite infrastructure need at our elementary school level, but there is also a need and responsibility to use the financial resources of our community wisely.


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