Referendum Mythbusters

Referendum Mythbusters

“We don’t speculate….We investigate!”

Remember to Vote YES 4 Our Community on April 4th!

The following are myths highlighted by the We are Mayville Facebook Group, letters to the editor, and other sources.  Each is evaluated as best as possible with supporting information.


Myth #1:  The School District is withholding what is in the referendum!

Result:  BUSTED!

This refrain, repeated by the Naysayers is NOT true. Just follow links to see what is being done and where!

These detailed plans have been publicly available since February on the School Districts website. The diagrams are detailed renovation plans for all three of the district schools. They further indicate in text what is being done.

Source:

Referendum Plans – Mayville School District


Myth #2:  The Mayville School District is secretly building a factory with the referendum to do work for local manufacturers that these manufacturers cannot do profitably.

Result:  BUSTED!

There is no factory in the plan, in the same way that there is no gymnasium nor new auditorium in the plan.

There is an organization within the High School today that is set up to be similar to a business to provide real-world experience for students involved in tech-ed, business, art, and other areas that relate to manufacturing.  It is organized to educate students and provide real-world experience through operating a business program that works with non-profits and local manufacturers on small projects.  It was formerly called Cardinal Industries and has recently changed its name to Mayville Manufacturing due to a trademark filing discovered by the marketing students while working on updating the business plan.

Sources:

Mayville Manufacturing on Facebook

Referendum Plans – Mayville School District


Myth #3:  Cardinal Industries is a drain upon the school district’s budget.

Result:  BUSTED!

It is self-supporting and has zero impact on the school district budget.

Sources:

Mayville Manufacturing on Facebook

Mayville School District 2016 Annual Booklet


Myth #4:  Cardinal Industries doesn’t have a website.

Result:  BUSTED!

Quite simply, yes it does, as well as a Facebook Page with over a hundred “Likes”.  A simple Google search provided these answers.

Source:

Mayville Manufacturing on Facebook

Cardinal Industries Website


Myth #5:  The school district won’t provide a breakdown of the spending in the referendum.

Result:  BUSTED!

This has been done many times; on the fact sheet, on the spreadsheets used to come up with the $24.5M number, and at the open houses/presentations. This is simply not true. Findorff, Baird, and Bray have all stated that the amount and detail of information presented for Mayville’s Referendum exceeds what they have ever supplied for any referendum to date.

Sources:

Capital Maintenance Items – April Referendum

Mayville Capital Maintenance Overall Pricing

New Construction Area Costs


Myth #6:  The School District ignored “repeated requests” for information on STEAM.

Result:  DOUBLE BUSTED!

On March 16, Mr. Pichotta, in a public post advocating a “No” vote attacked the Cardinal Industries/Mayville Manufacturing program at the High School.  Mr. Pichotta in that post stated “After repeated requests for the District’s administration has failed to give me any breakdown of the ten million dollar spending on the STEAM program.”

This myth is double busted. First, the STEAM program spending isn’t $10M.  The total of $9,777,841 is the amount devoted to basically a remodel and renovation of all of learning spaces at the high school together with the addition of a Fab Lab at Parkview elementary.

Second, if Mr. Pichotta’s claim that he made “repeated requests” to district administration appears to be a flat out lie. The YES 4 Our Community Group has filed an Open Records Request to the Mayville School District for copies of all communication between Mr. Dick Pichotta, Mr. Joe Hohmann, and the School District regarding Cardinal Industries, Tech Ed, Mayville Manufacturing, and STEAM between January 1, 2016 and March 17, 2017.

There were two results. Neither contained a request for a breakdown on STEAM spending.  The only reason Mr. Pichotta isn’t getting answers from the school district is that he actually isn’t asking for them.

Sources:

Community Solutions

New Construction Area Costs

Out of respect for all parties involved, we do not intend to release the email copies as many other community members were copied on the email chain back and forth.  However, here is a copy of our Open Records Request.

Open Records Request


Myth #7:  The referendum spends $10 Million Dollars on Tech Ed.

Result:  BUSTED!

A simple Google search provided these answers.  To be precise, the Technical Education room of the Referendum is $2,304,166.  The total amount invested in new construction would be $6,950,000.  The amount invested towards remodeling all the learning space environments at the High School (and adding the elementary Fab Lab) is $9,777,841.

Sources:

New Construction Area Costs

Community Solutions


Myth #8: The New Construction costs are not broken down.

Result:  BUSTED!

The New Construction consists of the new Tech Ed, Agriculture, Computer Clean Lab, Weight and Fitness Classroom, and corresponding rest rooms and mechanical areas.  Here is a breakdown of the spending:

$567,000 on the structure

$1,620,000 on the shell (windows, walls, part of roof, etc)

$1,350,000 on the interior

$1,880,000 on mechanicals including electric and plumbing

$477,000 on Equipment and Furnishings

$304,000 on demolition and adaptation of the bus port

$744,000 on site work

Sources:

Community Solutions

Open House Presentation

Mayville Capital Maintenance Overall Pricing

New Construction Area Costs


Myth #9:  The School District is withholding financial information.

Result:  BUSTED!

The School District has shared all of their resources.  All information is contained on the main Financing Solutions page for the School District Referendum.

There is a sample financing plan, a Baird presentation on options, and much more information.

Sources:

Financing Information

Finance Plans Illustrations

Baird FAQ


Myth #10:  The school district is sneaking in a 25-year bond for the referendum.

Result:  BUSTED!

The school district has been up-front about the financing options and has utilized Baird as a resource to help determine different options for financing, to best leverage our tax dollars and minimize the interest expense.

Baird has shown some options that help to reduce the mill rate and balance the loans to minimize interest expenses.  Baird is recommending 20 to 25 years, but believes that the program can be done with a 2.21 increase in the mill rate (essentially back to where we were in 2015), with a 22-year plan.  In the end, it is only a recommendation and the school district Board of Education would make the final decision, after the referendum vote.

The essential point is that Baird cannot commit to a solid number or plan until the referendum is completed because the finance market is changing too quickly.  Not just in rates, but in programs, options, and laws.  Just this month, The Feds raised the rate a quarter percent.

What Baird has proposed is an option to break the overall amount into three loans.  They are proposing using bank-backed loans, which have a limit of $10 million per year but can lower the interest rate by doing so.  They recommend doing this the first two years of the program, and then securing a smaller loan for the remainder.

However, the board of education will make the final decision to either go that route or a traditional loan for the full amount.  If the community desires a traditional loan for 20 years, that can be discussed and articulated by the community in Board of Education meetings after the referendum.  Nothing can be finalized until a referendum is approved and Baird has taken this as far as they can at this point in time.

Sources:

Financing Information

Finance Plans Illustrations

Baird FAQ

Mayville FAQ

Preliminary Tax Impact Calculator


Myth #11:  Multiple Referendums would make more financial sense.

Result:  BUSTED!

Some people have suggested splitting this referendum into multiple questions, one for infrastructure and one for learning space improvements.    This makes no sense from a construction perspective. Replacing the plumbing, electrical and HVAC will require substantial work opening the walls and ceilings.  It does not make sense to tear into the same areas in the future to make other updates.  That would be a severe waste of taxpayer dollars.  It would discourage ever upgrading the learning spaces in the future via another second referendum by making it much more expensive.   That is likely the actual objective by the opponents.

The Board of Education weighed the options and agreed that it is in simply in the best interest of the community to do it all at once.

Sources:

Mayville Board of Education Agendas and Minutes

Mayville Board of Education Meeting Videos


Myth #12:  Most schools in Wisconsin pass referendums that equal to be on average $10,000 per student, minus interest.  This will be over $20,416 per kid if we had an enrollment of 1200.

Result:  BUSTED!

Many schools are doing operational referendums that are much smaller that skew the average.  We must look at comparable size schools so the data can be correlated.

Recent Referendums:

School District        Year   Referendum            Sept 16 FTE    Cost per ’16 FTE

Lomira                        2014   $24 million               996                    $24,096

Waupun                     2016   $36 million               2022                  $17,804

Mayville                     2017   $24.5 million            1062                   $23,069

 

Sources:

School Finance Reporting Portal


Myth #13:  Your property taxes will increase 25%.

Result:  BUSTED!

Property taxes are a sum of city taxes, state taxes, school taxes, and other taxes. This referendum only impacts school taxes.

This referendum would return the mill rate to where it has historically been for the last 20 years.

Source:

Financing Information

Mayville Fact Sheet 2017


Myth #14:  The school population is declining with no change in the foreseeable future.

Result:  BUSTED!

Yes, there was a dip in school population currently in the first and second grade  levels.  This is due to the Great Recession of 2008. Enrollment is now recovering.   This is evident in Mayville’s enrollment numbers as well.  Keep in mind that these are birth rates, so the impacts to school districts will begin to happen approximately 5 years after the change in population trend.  This is why we are seeing the declines in 1st grade and Kindergarten, with a slightly better 4K compared to the other two.

According to Scott Sabol in a recent school board meeting, the student population is projected to recover to pre-recession levels over time and level out.  It is not projected to continue the decline.

enrollment

Source:

Enrollment Projections


Myth #15:  Mayville is a retirement community.

Result:  BUSTED!

According to City-data.com and based on census data and other inputs, the median age in Mayville is 39.8 years.  The median age in Wisconsin is 39.4 years.

The minimum retirement age for Wisconsin State employees and teachers in the Wisconsin Retirement System is 65 years of age for full benefits.

Therefore, our average population is not even through half of their working years.

Mayville is not a retirement community.  Mayville is a reflection of the State of Wisconsin.

Sources:

Minimum Retirement Age

City Data for Mayville


Myth #16:  The School District doesn’t have a plan for future maintenance within the budget and will have to raise taxes.

Result:  BUSTED!

With this referendum, the FSC (Facilities Study Committee) thoroughly reviewed all facilities in the school district, including the bus garage and district offices.  The infrastructure subcommittee spent countless hours reviewing all facilities to ensure there are no surprises in the future.  This was accomplished by identifying all systems, their age, working life, and expected life.

The Infrastructure Sub-Committee made an extensive spreadsheet to list all items reviewed.  They found some items missed by various inspectors and contractors.  They also outlined many items that are not needed for our school district.  Items that could add up to millions of dollars but do not save enough money to justify their use.

To that matter, this is why the Board of Education took the time for this referendum to go to the community and ask for help.  They wanted as much help as possible to prevent catastrophes in the future.  They accomplished their goal.  They now have a working spreadsheet for the next decade that outlines all of their systems and areas to review.

Sources:

Infrastructure Sub-Committee Findings

Facility Needs

Facilities Planning

Capital Maintenance Overall Pricing


Myth #17:  The Facility Study Committee (FSC) time was cut short.

Result:  BUSTED!

The FSC was designed to gather information on the needs of the high school, middle school, and primary school in the areas of safety and security, infrastructure, learning spaces, athletics and fine arts.

The FSC took this to the next level by discussing solutions to the needs.  The Infrastructure sub-committee was rushed at the end due to the volume of data collected that needed to be analyzed, prioritized and then presented.  However, they were thorough in their work and met over the holidays to complete the analysis in time and accurately.

Source:

Facility Needs

Facilities Planning


Myth #18:  The Referendum is improperly worded to be a “blank check.”

Result:  BUSTED!

The referendum question proposed by the School District was written by district counsel to be descriptive of the work performed.  It authorizes bonds not to exceed $24,500,000.00 for a district wide building and improvement program.  The language further sets forth the infrastructure improvements and renovations at all three schools as well as the addition including agricultural science,  technical education, and physical education classrooms at the high school.

The argument that this constitutes a “blank check” indicates lack of knowledge of the referendum process and the law.  In Wisconsin, School Districts are required to pass a referendum before issuing bonds by Wis. Stat. § 67.05(6a).   The School District is required to submit a question.  The question must only give meaningful notice to the voters as to what is being done. This question does that.

The thought that a referendum question should contain “line items” or a specific floor plan is not how Wisconsin law works. Available on the Wisconsin State Department of Public Instruction website is a listing of every district going to referendum.  As set forth in the Brief description, Mayville’s language is actually far more detailed than most and completely in line with every other district.

The school district has been open and honest about what is in the referendum plan.  It is not a “blank check.”

Sources:

Wisconsin Statutes

Ballot Wording


Myth #19:  Mayville would be better off closing Parkview.

The claim is that closing Parkview and adding on to the Middle School would cost $2 million or $3 million in new construction and save $400,000 a year in operating expenses while ensuring a successful transition between grades.

Result:  BUSTED!

First, $2 million or $3 million?  There simply is no data to support this low of a construction cost. Ironically, the people who claim there should be exact line items in construction estimates appear to be just making up numbers.

A construction report for 2015 has outlined that the National Median Cost of new space for middle schools would be $242.96 per square foot.  If you add an average space of 50 feet by 50 feet for each classroom, plus additional access areas, common spaces, one could easily add in excess of 30,000 square feet.

30,000 sq. ft. x $242.96 = $7,288,800.

This is the best we could find for an estimate for new construction.

If more students are added, additional parking would also be needed.  This will add to the cost.  We could be looking at more like $8 million to $10 million to achieve this.

A selling point of the school district is that the young kids are separated from older students.  Parents look for security of small children, from 4K to 2nd Grade.  Further, Mayville has an advantage by having these kids in separate facilities.  To have the same advantage in a combined primary and intermediate school would require separate lunchrooms, gym space, and other resources such as restrooms, common areas and security features to prevent interaction between older and younger kids.  If that is all to be added to such a plan, the cost will definitely be much higher than $7 million.

$8 million is higher than $3 million.  See links below for more information.

Sources:

2015 Annual School Construction Report

Wikipedia Answer to This Question

Enrollment Projections


 

Do you know of another Referendum Myth that needs investigation?

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