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LUHS Board Hires Referendum Consultant

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MINOCQUA – The Lakeland school board Monday voted to hire a consulting firm to provide a financial analysis as the board eyes a possible February 2020 referendum on raising additional funds for school operations and major projects.

The board agreed to hire PMA Financial Network, one of two consulting firms interviewed by the board’s ad hoc referendum committee July 17. Board member Barry Seidel made the motion, despite the ad hoc committee’s recommendation to go with Robert W. Baird & Company.

PMA handled the district’s sale of $15 million in general obligation bonds a few years ago, which were used to finance various energy savings projects at the high school. PMA would not charge any up front fees if it received the bond sale.

Robert W. Baird & Company made a similar presentation to the committee. Depending on level of services, its up front fees could range from a few thousands dollars up to $10,000. Neither company offered to do any marketing materials or promotion for the referendum.

Some school districts have used outside firms for that purpose, while others rely on “grassroots” efforts. Seidel, who is not on the referendum committee, urged the board to consider placing the referendum question on the February 2020 election cycle, rather than the April 2020 or November 2020 dates as suggested by the committee. He said the district already has much of the information it needs to present to voters.

The ad hoc committee has been looking at what capital improvement projects it should include in the overall referendum. Among them are blacktopping the main parking lot and renovation of the stadium bleachers and replacement of the press box. Those three and various other projects both inside and outside total about $3 million.

Seidel said if the board decides to pursue a referendum to exceed revenue limits (versus one for issuing debt, usually for major construction projects or remodeling), the two choices are recurring and non-recurring. He provided explanations for both: “Once the levy is changed by the amount specified in a recurring referendum that amount stays on the levy indefinitely. “Non-recurring usually has a term. Once the term is up the levy will re-adjust to pre-referendum levels less increases allowed by the funding formula.”

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