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Lakeland May Reboot Referendum Committee

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Following a lopsided rejection of a $3.45 million recurring levy  by district voters, the Lakeland School Board appears ready to reactivate its ad hoc referendum committee to explore options.

None of the options, such as making any future referendum a one-time levy, were discussed by the board Monday night.

Members merely gave brief assessments why the referendum failed 3,076 to 2,406 at the ballot box Feb. 18. The bulk of majority “no” votes came in Arbor Vitae 574-414, Minocqua 871-576, Hazelhurst 254-201 and Woodruff 326-291. It squeaked by in Lac du Flambeau 292-272. 

Board members praised district administrator Rob Way and director of finance Gregg Kopp for their detailed presentations during six public information sessions on the referendum. “I agree that the presentations were good,” said Gary Smith. “I know that we were advised to go with the timeline that we did. I thought, personally, it was too short. I think we should have started way earlier and should (have done) more of those presentations.”

Barb Peck said she heard afterwards from people wondering why the referendum was structured to include money for both capital projects and operating expenses. “I really don’t think people have a real understanding of the complexities of school funding and how that puts pressure on us,” said Jon Berg. He said few citizens showed up for the information session.

The board decided on recurring because it didn’t want to come back to the voters in a few years for another referendum request to increase the levy beyond state imposed limits. Other board members also took note of the recurring aspect of the referendum, slated to always stay on the tax levy unless repealed, that might have turned off voters. The size of the levy request also played a factor they said.

Shari Nimsgern, sitting in for board president Ed Schaub, who was absent, said the board would take up the ad hoc referendum committee and related issues at their next meeting. She thanked citizens who did vote for the levy request.

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