Frequently Asked Questions & Answers
General Referendum Information
When was the last time a referendum for higher taxes passed for Arrowhead Union High School District?
- The last time Arrowhead pass a referendum was in 1999. That debt will be fully paid off in 2020. Voters approved two questions for:
- $19,800,000 debt issued to construct additions, renovate, asbestos abatement, and improve security
- $342,212 recurring costs for utility, custodial/maintenance, and property/casualty insurance for the new additions.
What is the total cost of the referendum on April 4, 2017?
- The cost of the referendum will not exceed $36.68M
- Instructional area improvements at North & South Campus = $16,488,000
- Campus-wide building & technology infrastructure = $15,253,000
- Campus-wide site improvements = $4,939,000
What changed from the November referendum project to the April referendum project?
In response to the defeated referendum on November 8, 2016 and the subsequent feedback from our voting citizens, the School Board reviewed, re-prioritized, and reduced the scope of the project by more than $28 million. The most significant reductions were the elimination of a new fine arts auditorium and a replacement swimming pool. It is recognized these projects are still strongly desired by many students, citizens, and staff members. However, the majority of the public feedback related to those projects indicated they were not viewed as immediate, highest priority needs for Arrowhead High School, at least at this point in time.
Some of the proposed work is related to undersized classrooms. How do you reach the conclusion certain rooms are too small?
The classrooms targeted for expansion are 672 - 718 sq. ft. in size. While there are no strict requirements related to classroom size, the standard is about 30 sq. ft. per student in most classes (900 sq. ft. classroom tends to be the acceptable norm), 50 sq. ft. per student in science and art classrooms/labs, and 100+ sq. ft. in tech. ed./wood shop classrooms. Arrowhead has several undersized classrooms for class sizes ranging from 22 up to 33 students in a room. Several small science rooms exist with too few lab stations; there may be 6-7 students working at an old-fashioned lab table, when best-practice and today's standard tends to be 3-4 students per lab station.
What is meant by "real-world simulation spaces" in special education areas?
Proposed improvements are targeted to special education areas at both campus school buildings. At South Campus, Cafe Arrowhead is currently comprised of seven small rooms/areas where students learn to cook, clean, serve food, handle money, manage a mock apartment, and practice safety and self-help skills, social skills, etc. Renovations would involve changing the multiple small rooms into fewer, larger rooms making it safer and more efficient for supervising and instructing students, as well as updating some fixtures like equipment and 20+ year-old carpet. At North Campus the "real-world" space is a mini-coffee shop where students learn many of the same skills described above. While the coffee shop is not targeted for major renovation, a new special education area would be constructed, from combining existing classrooms, near the coffee shop. Not only does this making staffing and collaboration more efficient, but it would free up classrooms in two other parts of the building currently used for special education, to be used for different classes or programs.
The informational material references technology infrastructure, such as IT cabinets, servers, etc. Wouldn't the cloud and wireless internet make these need obsolete?
The IT cabinets, grounding of the wiring closets, and switches are necessary to transport information. This transport includes internet access, which means the switches are connected to our wireless access points and to our school-owned computers (some hard-wired devices for speed and efficiency). With streaming and state-required standardized testing needs, there labs where we hard-wired computers. Our servers are used for many purposes within the district including, but not limited to, file storage, authentication, imaging computers, domain names, educational video, state testing, and other programs. Students and teachers are able to back up information to our servers. For larger engineering files and programs, saving locally can be more efficient than in the cloud. The state also requires us to store standardized test information locally, rather than in the cloud.
With declining student enrollment, why is the parking area being increased?
The main goal of the work proposed in identified parking lots is to improve drainage and our flooding problems, as well as to repair and replace aged, cracked asphalt. However, with improved design of some parking lots, it is predicted additional parking spots will be an outcome. We currently do have adequate parking for day to day use for our students and staff. Beyond the school day, our parking lots are used for many after school, evening, and weekend events. If you have been on campus for graduation, or a big football game, or Hawkfest, for example, you'll likely recall parking spots are full and autos are parked illegally on roadways and on our grassy areas (causing damage and adding work/expense). The additional spots to be gained in the proposed flooding/asphalt improvements will not eliminate these parking capacity issues, but likely will help.
If the referendum passes, when would construction begin? When would the entire project be completed?
- If the referendum passes, the design phase of the project would begin immediately.
- Construction would likely begin late in 2017.
- As a result of the numerous and significant sub-projects, the entire construction project may take two to three years to complete. The approximate timing of full completion would be fall of 2019.
- The timing of the construction sub-projects would be based on the least disruption to student learning as possible, the prioritization of necessary repairs and replacements, the availability of the various contractors completing the work, and obtaining the most responsible pricing on the various sub-projects.
Facilities and Operating Costs
Why do we need a referendum to address critical facilities' needs?
- Arrowhead last passed a facilities referendum in 1999. Since then, basic building and life safety systems, campus infrastructure, and learning spaces have naturally aged and become outdated.
- Despite completing over $10 million in capital projects over the last seven years, increasing facility needs are too expensive to fund at this rate, from our shrinking operating budget, without directly impacting the funding of instructional programs and services provided to Arrowhead students.
Why can't infrastructure maintenance needs be paid for through the annual operating budget?
- Over the last seven years, Arrowhead spent over $10 million on infrastructure and maintenance needs such as roofing, heating/air conditioning, flooring, plumbing, life safety systems, computer networking, etc.; an average of about $1.6 million each year. With approximately 400,000 square feet of buildings to maintain, 12 acres of roofing, and many naturally aging building systems, we simply cannot keep up with these growing needs as a part of the general operating budget without impacting valued programs/services elsewhere in the budget. As a direct result of declining student enrollment and how that factors into the state's school finance formula, Arrowhead is experience budget deficits. Depending on what occurs with Wisconsin's Biennium Budget, for the 2017-18 school year, the school is facing a projected $500,000 to $900,000 deficit. The following school year, the deficit is projected to worsen to $1,000,000 to $1,800,000. The increasing facility costs now compete directly with high quality educational programs and services provided to Arrowhead students.
What is being planned to incorporate energy efficient updates to minimize the overall, ongoing cost impact of this project?
- The district will utilize professional MEP (Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing) engineering services in the development and design of referendum-related improvements. Currently, the district's Building Automation System (BAS) data analytics program tracks energy use profiles and provides cost avoidance opportunities, and all new HVAC equipment will also be monitored in this manner.
- The district currently utilizes, and will continue to utilize, the EPA's Energy Star Portfolio Manager, and the FOCUS on Energy program for consultation and incentive opportunities. South Campus achieved Energy Star Certification in 2010.
- Recent Design Engineering Manufacturing Center remodeling at South Campus provided an Energy Use Dashboard, providing students the opportunity to understand the manufacturing process relation to energy consumption.
How has declining enrollment impacted Arrowhead's budget? Why does it seem like we're pressured more with revenue limits and tight budgets than some neighboring districts?
- Currently, our enrollment is declining, and historically we have served more students. Due to revenue limits, resources available to sustain programs are much more limited. School districts that are experiencing growing enrollments may have started with fewer program offerings (in comparison to what Arrowhead has traditionally offered). With (their) new enrollment growth, it adds to their revenue limits and their ability to increase programming. With (our) declining enrollment, coupled with revenue limits not pacing with inflation, the funding we are allowed to operate with is decreased. This requires Arrowhead to make prioritized reductions, such as adjusting programming, raising class sizes, and limits our ability to expand programming for students.
How does a district's student enrollment apply to the revenue limit?
- The revenue limits are based on student count. Those districts that are growing in student enrollment are better positioned to sustain programs because their revenues pace more closely to expenditure increases. Arrowhead's enrollment has been declining; therefore, we are more significantly impacted by the revenue limit. The revenue limit does not keep pace with increasing costs, and with fewer students, there is less revenue available to education the children. As a result, we need to reduce expenditures, which typically leads to staff and programming reductions.
What is Arrowhead's current mill rate? If the referendum passes, how much will it raise my taxes and for how long?
- Arrowhead's current mill rate for 2017 is $3.37 per $1,000 of property value.
- A passed referendum would result in a loan spread over 21 years. Taxes would be increased on average by 45 cents per $1,000 of property value, or $45 per $100,000 of property value.
- The tax rate per $1 million of the referendum cost is $0.0123, or just over 1 penny per $1 million.
- This tax rate is based on estimated assumptions of an interest rate of 4.00-4.25% and an annualized equalized valuation growth of 1.00%.
What do the finances look like for Arrowhead Union High School District?
What steps have been taken to reduce the budget? Has Arrowhead used the available "Act 10 tools" to reduce the budget before moving forward with a referendum?
- Significant measures have been taken to reduce expenses within the district; the "tools of Act 10" indeed have been implemented, which means reductions to compensation and benefits to employees and retirees, including:
- Cost saving energy programs have been implemented.
- Class sizes have been increased for efficiencies in staffing costs. The average class size has increased from 24.5 in 2010-11 to 26.4 in 2016-17, with some classes topping out in the mid-30's.
- Bidding of services to obtain the least expensive pricing occurs regularly.
- All of the following compensation and benefit changes during the last five years have assisted the district in avoiding approximately $2,150,000 in employee benefit expenses:
- Raises for staff of 3.8% or higher (during the days when salary schedules were negotiated with unions) no longer occur. In some years, salaries were frozen for some employee groups and in other years, the salary increases mirrored the Consumer Price Index (CPI) changes, resulting in approximately 1% raises.
- Health insurance has been put out to bid for less expensive plans. The district changed health insurance carriers in August 2011 and again in July 2016. These carrier changes saved the district approximately $667,000.
- Health insurance plans have been modified to include higher out-of-pocket expenses for employees. These plan design changes have saved the district approximately $302,000.
- Employees who qualify to participate in the district's health insurance plan pay 9.5% of the premium, with an opportunity to lower that expense to 7.5% if they participate in an identified health risk assessment/wellness program. These premium increases have saved the district approximately $180,000.
- The district terminated its long-term care insurance plan in 2013, saving the district approximately $205,000.
- The district has changed dental, life, and long term disability insurance carriers as of July 2013. The district also increased the dental insurance premium contribution. These changes have saved the district approximately $58,200.
- The employees pay the employee contribution into the Wisconsin Retirement System (WRS). In the past, the School Board paid both the employer and employee contribution portions. This change has saved the district $739,000.
- Reductions in the following post-employment benefits have caused the district's other post-employment benefits (OPEB) accrued liability to decrease $10,840,800 from July 1, 2008 to July 1, 2014:
- Post-employment health insurance has been eliminated, other than for a few long-term employees who were "grandfathered."
- Retiring teachers used to receive a tax sheltered annuity (TSA) based on longevity. This benefit is no longer provided.
- While Act 10 provided some ability of school boards to save on benefit plans, it does not allow districts to raise more revenue to keep up with other continually rising costs. Arrowhead administration and school board work hard to adequately use the "tools of Act 10" to reduce costs, while maintaining compensation and a workplace culture that will attract and retain the best teachers and other staff members, for the sake of our students.
Did Arrowhead really spend over $600,000 on a locker room?
- No, Arrowhead did not spend over $600,000 of district/taxpayer funds on a locker room. Arrowhead did end up with deluxe locker rooms, but that's not all. Rumors paint a skewed picture of the 2014-15 repair and renovation project. Accurate facts reveal a different picture of the significant repairs and remodeling to both boys' and girls' locker rooms, and adjoining athletic areas. Locker rooms account for just 1,302 square feet of the 7,570 square feet of the repaired and remodeled areas.
- The heavy renovation of this 1970's original construction addressed indoor air quality compliance, accessibility through ADA requirements, dysfunctional/inoperable plumbing (toilets and showers that were non-functioning) and sanitary sewers (annual raw sewage back-ups), electrical/lighting deficiencies, and privacy issues. The estimated cost of this project for just the necessary repairs and standard-level renovation of the space, was projected at $500,000.
- As a result of significant donations (over $460,000), the district saved approximately $300,000 toward its intended expense. Those donations covered portions of the renovation, as well as the deluxe-level remodeling, which resulted in the total project cost of over $600,000.
- The Arrowhead school board did not spend $600,000 of district monies to glamorize a locker room, as rumors proclaim... nor was the money budgeted for locker room remodeling, for remodeling sake. The district's portion of the expense was budgeted to correct safety and sanitary issues so the area didn't have to be shut down for student use.