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Northwoods Sweep: Voters Approve School Referenda in Crandon, Phillips, White Lake

School District of Crandon

Voters supported the three school spending referendums on Northwoods ballots this month, results showed this week.

Crandon, Phillips, and White Lake voters each gave permission to raise their own taxes for school operations and projects.

Crandon asked voters for $1 million each of the next five years to help it keep operating.

Fifty-two percent of voters supported the referendum.

If it had failed, the district would have had to lay off staff, cut classes, and increase class size.

“I’m very pleased, very thankful,” said Superintendent Larry Palubicki.  “This is about benefitting the students, being able to offer certain programs and classes and keep teachers on staff to be able to offer those things to kids.”

It’s likely the district will keep asking for money to keep operating at current levels, said Palubicki.

“We don’t have as solid of a tax base as other communities because of how much National Forest land we have,” he said.  “I would like to say, no, it’s not the new norm, but unfortunately, until they change the funding from the state level, a lot of schools are caught in a referendum cycle.”

Two years ago, Phillips voters rejected a $12.6 million referendum to renovate the district’s aging elementary school.

But this time, they supported a $9.8 million proposal to expand the high school and middle school while bringing the elementary into the same building.  Three in five voters backed the plan.

“One of the key components was moving the elementary over to the middle and high school campus, becoming a 4K-through-12[th grade], one-campus system because we have available space in both the middle school and the high school with the declining enrollment over the past 15 to 20 years,” said Superintendent Rick Morgan.

The plan includes other projects.

“The expansion of our Fab Lab and our connection here in Phillips with manufacturing businesses was a significant portion,” Morgan said.  “It’s a direction, I think, our community really felt good about us moving into.  It’s a direction we’re moving into right now, and having that additional space to be able to do that was something that, I think, really helped.”

Work will start this year, and students will move to their new setting in the 2022-2023 school year.

White Lake passed a referendum to raise taxes by $700,000 each of the next five years to pay for operations.

Ben worked as the Special Topics Correspondent at WXPR from September 2019 until November 2021. He now contributes occasionally to WXPR. During his full-time employment, his main focus was reporting on environment and natural resources issues in northern Wisconsin and Michigan's Upper Peninsula as part of The Stream, a weekly series.
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