Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What are the District’s needs?
A: Despite being well maintained, many of our RUSD schools are very old and have major needs that must be addressed now in order to provide our students the education they deserve.
- The average age of our school buildings is 79 years
- An exhaustive facilities study found that several of our schools will cost the taxpayer more to maintain than to simply rebuild brand new.
- Other school facility needs include enhanced safety and security, HVAC, roofs, playgrounds, separate gym and cafeteria and upgrades to support the Academies of Racine.
- Our students need and deserve facilities that can accommodate 21st century technology and offer flexible environments for hands-on, project-based learning to prepare our students for college and career.
Q: Does this plan address the needs of schools in the city?
A: Yes. This plan addresses needs at all schools. Additionally, it includes construction of three brand new schools in the city of Racine. Click here to view the maps.
Q: What is the purpose of the long-range facilities plan?
A: Based on feedback from the community asking for a different approach going forward, RUSD spent the last year working collaboratively with hundreds of community members, staff members and school families to create a smart, data-based, long-term facilities master plan. This plan, developed by a third-party firm, will:
- Address significant school facility needs
- Incorporate demographic changes to ensure it meets current and future needs of students and the community
- Ensure excellent learning environments and experiences in every school for every student
Q: What will this referendum do for our schools?
A: If approved, the referendum would allow the district to implement our long-range facilities plan to:
- Construct new schools
- Modernize our schools through major maintenance and renovations
- Reduce the size of our middle schools
- Enhance safety and technology
- Expand successful programs, such as the Academies of Racine
Q: What happens if the proposal is not approved?
A: If the proposal is not approved in April, we will continue to work to move the district forward. However, it is much more challenging to engage students in hands-on learning that prepares them for college and career in school facilities that cannot support today’s technology and modern learning environments.
The district also must address increasing operating costs. To do that, the district will likely need to consider closing older, inefficient schools and move the students attending those schools to other buildings in the district.
Q: How much would the referendum cost a homeowner?
A: If approved, the school tax rate related to the referendum would remain flat for the term of the referendum.
Q: How does the referendum affect the mill rate?
A: If the referendum is approved, the mill rate related to the referendum will remain flat.
Q: If voters pass the proposal, how will the school tax rate remain flat?
A: Three Factors Will Keep the School Property Tax Flat:
1. Existing tax levies will expire in the coming years. As levies end, this new referendum will take their place. We’re simply asking taxpayers to continue the investment already being made in our public schools.
2. Increased state aid: For every dollar the District spends on referendum facility improvements, the state picks up $.30.
3. Projections show Racine’s economy is growing, which will expand our property tax base and provide tax relief for our residents.
Q: What will district residents get if the referendum is passed?
A: RUSD’s taxpayers will get new schools, modernized and remodeled schools, safety and security enhancements, new technology and improvements to support programs like the Academies of Racine. Projects that would be funded through the referendum include:
- Construction of new schools, including a new Schulte K-8, a Starbuck International Baccalaureate K-8 and new, smaller middle schools
- Modernization of schools through major maintenance and renovations
- Enhancements to safety, security and technology
- Expansion of successful programming like the Academies of Racine
- Creation of schools that are Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant
Every school and every student will be impacted by the referendum.
Q: This plan is really big. Why not break it into phases and multiple smaller referenda?
A: RUSD’s referendum in April is a big ask, but there are several reasons it’s so big. As we worked collaboratively to develop the long-range facilities plan based on data and hundreds of hours of research, it became clear that schools across the District have many facility needs. We developed a plan that allows us to address needs at every school and make a positive impact on every student because we believe every child deserves a high-quality, positive and safe learning environment.
The referendum includes construction of five brand new schools, major maintenance and renovations at more than a dozen schools and technology and safety and security upgrades across all schools. If passed, the work will happen over the next ten years, and the District's debt paid off over the next 30 – all while maintaining a flat tax rate for our community.
Like a home equity loan, rather than asking a bank for a loan year after year the District is taking care of the issues in one effort to achieve long-term facilities goals. And yes, like a home equity loan there are interest and financing costs throughout the term of the loan – all of which were considered when determining the most cost-effective approach to provide the least impact on our taxpayers.
Q: What led the Board of Education to approve placing the proposal on the ballot?
A: For the past year, RUSD has worked collaboratively with hundreds of community members, staff members and families to create a smart, data-based, long-term facilities master plan. This plan addresses significant school facility needs while incorporating demographic changes to ensure the district meets current and future needs of students and the community. The plan prioritizes offering excellent learning environments and experiences in every school for every student.
Despite being well maintained, many RUSD schools are very old and have major needs that must be addressed now to provide our students the education they deserve.
- The average age of our school buildings is 79 years.
- An exhaustive facilities study found that several of our schools will cost taxpayers more to maintain than to simply rebuild new.
- Additional school facility needs include enhanced safety and security, HVAC, roofs, playgrounds, separate gym and cafeteria and upgrades to support the Academies of Racine.
- Our students need and deserve facilities that can accommodate 21st century technology and offer flexible environments for hands-on, project-based learning to prepare them for college and career opportunities.
Q: How would new schools improve the state report card/student achievement results?
A: This plan is transformational for student learning. While new facilities don’t alone improve student achievement, a growing body of research has found that school facilities can have a profound impact on both teacher and student outcomes.
For teachers, school facilities affect recruitment, retention, commitment and effort. For students, school facilities affect health, behavior, engagement, learning and growth in achievement. Researchers generally conclude that without adequate facilities and resources, it is extremely difficult to serve large numbers of children with complex needs.
Additionally, we know that hands-on, project-based learning engages and excites students and prepares them with the 21st-century skills to be successful in college and the workforce. Many of RUSD’s old facilities were not built to accommodate what is needed for this type of learning. They are inefficient and were not designed to facilitate today’s technology and security needs.
Q: Why has the district not been addressing these needs through its annual maintenance budget?
A: We have. In fact, since 2014, we have increased our facilities maintenance budget annually to keep up with existing and future school needs. Still, we have more than two dozen school buildings, with an average age of 79 years. Just like with an older home, maintenance costs continue to grow and unexpected needs arise. Our existing budget simply cannot address all our needs.
In addition, an independent audit of our facilities found that some of our buildings will cost us more to continue to fix than to tear down and rebuild. This referendum will allow us to address needs across the entire district.
When times have been challenging for the school district financially, the school board has consistently prioritized allocating resources to student learning. What the district currently lacks are funds to address facility-related needs in a systematic way that will allow us to better protect taxpayers’ investments.
Q: If all the proposed projects cost $598 million, why is the referendum question asking for more?
A: Funding school improvements is similar to when a homeowner obtains a mortgage to build a new home or fund home improvements. The borrowing costs are typically not included in the purchase price.
The district’s financing plan will also include a policy created by the Board of Education to hold the administration accountable for keeping a flat school tax rate. This will require administration to propose budgets to under-levy in order to maintain a flat tax rate over the 30-year timeframe of the proposed referendum.
Q: Is this enough? Will you be back asking for more later?
A: Because local school budgets are heavily impacted by state budgets, which are set every two years, it is impossible to predict the district’s needs in the coming years. However, the board believes this referendum balances the needs of our students and taxpayers, is prudent and responsible and will address the district’s needs for years to come.
Q: Will the schools be safer if the referendum is approved? If so, how?
A: The school board and district leaders are continually looking for ways to improve safety in our schools. This includes improving processes, adding technology and making physical changes to school facilities. While the referendum does include numerous safety measures that will make our schools safer, our schools are already safe now.
Q: Where and when do I vote?
A: Polls open at 7:00 AM and close at 8:00 PM on Tuesday, April 7, 2020. To learn more about registering to vote, where to vote, or absentee ballots, please visit My Vote Wisconsin.
Additional questions? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.