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Brown Deer voters face school referendum

Two questions ask OK to reduce district to two-school campus, add gym space

Nov. 9, 2011

Brown Deer - A survey of residents taken last summer showed strong support for an $18 million, two-school campus proposal (60 percent) but less support for a $4 million field house (39 percent). The School Board decided to place both issues on the ballot Nov. 15, allowing the community at large to make the final decision.

With decision day looming, there appears to be support for the move to a two-school campus. Approval of that $18 million referendum question would allow the district to borrow that amount of money to be used to modify the middle school to an elementary, or lower, school for kindergarten through sixth grade, and remodel parts of and build an addition to the existing high school for grades seven through 12.

Plan calls for razing Dean

Dean School, in need of major repairs at a cost of $6 million to $7 million, would be razed and the modular classrooms removed once construction is completed on the two other schools.

The plan would remove the Dean repairs from the district's capital improvement list and address $5 million in maintenance needed at the middle and high schools.

Older and younger students would be separated in the buildings with their own classroom areas, cafeterias and gyms.

Finance Director Emily Koczela said the district could take advantage of $5 million in interest-free federal bonds and historically low commercial interest rates in financing the work. District voters at the annual meeting voted to forgo a 4 percent tax levy decrease and supported a zero percent tax levy that would allow the district to begin putting aside money for referendum costs.

The $18 million proposal includes funding for pathways on the school district campus.

"We have schools that really are in a park," Koczela said.

Buettner & Associates has prepared a long-range plan that could enhance the campus and provide additional walkways and recreation opportunities for the village, as well as learning opportunities for students. Much of the Buettner plan would not be included in the referendum but would be phased in later.

Koczela said parking lots would be included in the referendum spending but not items such as the amphitheatre that appear on the plans. The girls softball field, while shown as part of the campus design, is in the current operations budget and is being installed by a contractor. The WIAA required that the girls field be separated from the boys baseball field. They shared some outfield.

Gym space has dwindled

The second referendum question asks for $4 million for a larger gym than the one included in the $18 million proposal. Under the $18 million proposal, the upper school for grades seven to 12 would have the current 10,000-square-foot high school gym plus a new 17,000-square-foot gym. Under both scenarios, the 10,000-square-foot gym will be renovated and would be used by the seventh and eighth grades.

For the additional $4 million, the school would add a 35,000-square-foot, four-station gym with an indoor track.

The larger gym would allow more community recreational opportunities and offer potential for larger athletic events.

The village's Park and Recreation Department uses school facilities for some of its programming. The number of gyms in the district dropped by two in recent years, with the razing of Algonquin School and the transformation of the high school auxiliary gym into the theater. The potential razing of Dean School would eliminate another gym.

Park and Recreation Director Chad Hoier said the 17,000-square-foot gym would allow the department to maintain the status quo, but the larger 35,000-square-foot gym would allow it to grow and offer a wider range of recreational programming for the community.

There are programs that cannot be offered now because of gym limitations.

"In the last few years we have had people ask questions about bringing back the adult basketball league the department had before I got here," Hoier said.

The department might also be able to offer basketball programs for younger children.

"The field house would be large enough so you could play indoor soccer," he said. "We could introduce that to younger kids."

The field house would provide an indoor walking track for people when the weather discourages people from using the outdoor track.

Are voters angry?

Kevin Klimek, a member of the Finance and Facilities Committee and the study committee that worked on the two-school proposal, supports the $18 million question but said the $4 million extra is not necessary, in light of the number of students in the school and the ongoing cost of maintaining such a facility.

"I hope that people will look at the $18 million plan and won't vote against it because they are angry with the School Board for placing the $4 million question on the ballot," he said, adding that he believes some residents are indeed angry.

School Board President Gary Williams said the board wants the voters to have the opportunity to vote on both questions.

"The referendum is an opportunity for our community to move forward," he said. "Young families who are planning to buy a home look at how the school performs academically, how they look physically, and the type of community. The research out there indicates that improved facilities is tied to improved achievement. This window of opportunity won't be here for us after this."

Property owners would begin to see the referendum costs as part of their tax bills beginning in 2013, whether one or both of the proposals are approved. Because of the financing plan, the cost would increase gradually over the first eight years of the debt, reaching $16 per $100,000 of assessed value for the $18 million question, or $38 per $100,000 for the $18 million and $4 million combined, and remaining at that level until the debt is retired.

Referendum questions

Question 1: Shall the School District of Brown Deer, Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, be authorized to issue pursuant to Chapter 67 of the Wisconsin Statutes general obligation bonds in an amount not to exceed $18,000,000 for the public purpose of paying the cost of taking down the elementary school; renovating and equipping the middle school to convert it to an elementary school; expanding, renovating and equipping the high

school to provide for grades 7 through 12; and making site improvements?

Question 2: Shall the School District of Brown Deer, Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, be authorized to issue pursuant to Chapter 67 of the Wisconsin Statutes general obligation bonds in an amount not to exceed $4,000,000 for the public purpose of paying the cost of making additions and improvements to the high school gymnasium and acquiring related equipment?

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