What is an operating referendum?

An operating referendum asks permission from voters to exceed the state-imposed revenue limit for the purpose of funding school operations. It is NOT a referendum to incur debt to complete facility projects.

Is this a non-recurring or recurring referendum?

This is a non-recurring referendum. A non-recurring referendum asks for support for a specified time period and expires at the end of the specified term. The 2016 non-recurring referendum is about to expire and Iola-Scandinavia is asking for what it needs to keep schools running as they are now. Iola-Scandinavia is asking for:

  • $1,250,000 for 2021-22
  • $1,250,000 for 2022-23
  • $1,400,000 for 2023-24
  • $1,400,000 for 2024-25
  • $1,500,000 for 2025-26

After the 2025-26 school year the district will re-evaluate its financial situation and may likely ask for continued support through an additional referendum.

What is the tax impact of the referendum?

If voters approve the referendum, the current Iola-Scandinavia tax levy rate of $11.11 will increase incrementally over the next 5 years as follows:

  • $11.21 in 21-22 and 22-23; 
  • $11.57 in 23-24  
  • $11.80 in 24-25  
  • $11.91 in 25-26.  

Below are the projected TOTAL tax increases over the 5 year term:

  • $80 total tax increase for a home valued at $100,000 ($1.34/month)
  • $120 total tax increase for a home valued at $150,000 ($2.00/month)
  • $160 total tax increase for a home valued at $200,000 ($2.67/month)
  • $200 total tax increase for a home valued at $250,000 ($3.34/month)
Property ValueMonthly Tax Impact Over 5 YearsTotal Tax Increase Over 5 Years
Is a local referendum more efficient than state-wide taxes in keeping local taxpayer dollars in Iola-Scandinavia?

Yes, with our local referendum, 100 percent of the tax impact remains in the district. Income and sales taxes are paid into the state of Wisconsin and returned to school districts through equalization aid. Iola-Scandinavia only receives about $0.45 of every dollar paid in state income tax. This referendum provides a local solution that allows Iola-Scandinavia taxpayers direct support solely to Iola-Scandinavia schools.

Why does the assessed mill rate on my tax bill not match with the district’s (and Department of Public Instruction) published mill rate?

The Iola-Scandinavia School District establishes an annual tax levy. That levy is then distributed on an equalized value (Fair Market Value) basis between the 10 municipalities within the School District. The distribution is not determined by the School District but rather by the Wisconsin Department of Revenue. Because municipalities reassess the properties in different cycles, the state uses “equalized value” as a way of distributing the taxes. Once municipalities receive their portion of the tax from their school district, they then divide that total tax by their total assessed value, and come up with a tax rate that each individual taxpayer pays. There is sometimes a gap between the “assessed value” and the “equalized value” in a municipality which accounts for why the mill rates are expressed differently.

While some Iola-Scandinavia taxpayers might see an increase in their individual taxes, others may see a decrease. 

What will the operating referendum fund?

Pay electric bills. Heat buildings. Pay our staff. Transport students to and from school. Provide health insurance. Fund sports and extracurricular activities. Operating referendum funds are utilized for operating expenses. They are not used to incur debt.

Examples include:

  • Personnel
  • Transportation
  • Utilities
  • Programs
  • Extracurriculars
What will happen if the referendum fails?

A failed referendum will force Iola-Scandinavia to make over $1 million in cuts to balance its 2021-22 budget. Those cuts will come from several areas:

  • Staff
  • Programs
  • Services
  • Extra-curriculars
  • Athletics
What were the results of the 2016 Operating Referendum?
  • Yes - 1,587 votes - 61.6%
  • No - 988 votes - 38.4%
How often has Iola-Scandinavia School District asked taxpayers for operating funds via referendum since revenue limits were established in 1993?

The district asked the community for support in 2016 which was supported. The 2016 referendum expires at the end of the 2020-21 school year and we need your continued support.

Where can I find more information on Iola-Scandinavia’s spending/past budgets?

Please visit our Business Services page and contact Sarah Thiel, Business Manager, at thiels@iola.k12.wi.us if you have any questions.

If Iola-Scandinavia’s enrollment is declining, why is the district going to referendum?

Schools are funded on a per-pupil basis, which reflects the average cost to serve a student. The average cost includes personnel expenses, as well as infrastructure expenses. Over the past 10 years, I-S has seen a decline in the number of students served by 106 students, an average decline of 10 students per year. As an example, if the district serves 10 fewer students in any given year, that is a decline of one student from every tenth classroom. Moving from 25 to 24 (or 16 to 15) students per class does not reduce our personnel costs, which is a majority of I-S’s budget. Yet, the revenue loss to our district budget is $100,000. If those 10 students were concentrated in one grade level it might allow us to eliminate a teaching position at a savings of approximately $75,000. Yet the cost to heat, insure, and maintain the district buildings will not decrease. In either case, the district’s savings do not align with the reduction in revenue.

More info on the state’s school funding formula:

If the state funding formula changes, are there provisions in this referendum to reverse the imposed tax?

Yes, the referendum question asks voters to grant revenue limit authority to the Board of Education, but that does not mean the Board is required to exercise that full authority. Many Wisconsin communities, including Iola-Scandinavia, who have passed referendums, have “under levied” when the revenue available to them exceeds the amount needed to operate. (Iola-Scandinavia has “underlevied” several times since the first operating referendum was passed, maintaining its commitment to taxpayers to only levy the amount needed.) See below for details

School YearRevenue Limit ExemptionRevenue Limit Exemption UsedAmount
"Under Levied"
2020-21 (projected)$1,600,000$825,000($775,000)