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Referendum Information

Strong Schools = Strong Community

A great education prepares our kids for a successful future. We must ensure our schools are up to date and are able to provide the basics, while also offering the collaborative and engaging educational experiences our students need to be successful in tomorrow’s workplace.

Our students today are the builders, entrepreneurs, and leaders of tomorrow. Providing the best possible education is crucial for our kids’ future so that our whole community is successful.

Investing in a new high school and upgrading middle school facilities by moving into our current high schools will improve the learning environment for half of our 6,000-plus students. This plan allows us to remove $18.5 million in maintenance expenses and reduce operating costs by $4.5 million a year. Savings that can then be reinvested in our students and teachers.

Most importantly, this plan allows the school district to continue to provide small class sizes, and modern learning labs while providing the educational, elective, athletic, and extracurricular opportunities that our 6-12 students deserve to prepare them for the future.

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The Challenge

The School District of La Crosse is at a critical point. We must make changes to our facilities to provide our students the learning opportunities they deserve while addressing the aging buildings, declining enrollment, and budgeting challenges the district faces.

After 20 years of declining enrollment, caused by changing local demographics and lower birth rates, and reductions in state funding we are facing significant budget deficits now and into the future. Six of our buildings are over 80 years old, getting more expensive to maintain, and do not meet today’s needs.

To adjust, we have cut costs and reduced expenses where it did not impact our ability to educate students. However, we can no longer afford to heat, clean, and maintain all 15 of our buildings and keep the great opportunities we have for our kids.

The Process

Over the last two years, we assessed our oldest buildings, explored dozens of facility options, brought together focus groups and listening sessions, and gathered comprehensive feedback through two community-wide surveys.

The idea for a consolidated high school and moving our middle schoolers to our existing high schools emerged from our community as the one most likely to address our budgetary needs and best prepare our students for the future.

We examined 11 different sites for a consolidated high school considering size, location, availability, environmental concerns, and reuse of an existing facility. Only one 40-acre site in the city was available and we were able to secure the right to purchase the Trane Headquarters site if a referendum is passed.

The Solution

Building a new consolidated high school opens the current Logan High School and Central High School buildings to better serve our middle schoolers in grades 6-8. Transitioning our middle school students to the high school buildings is an immediate improvement to their educational experience with access to additional space and programs.

The plan will provide modern classrooms and labs for collaborative, flexible, and hands-on learning and increased options and opportunities in all aspects of the student experience – academics, arts, athletics, and extracurriculars.

It will give us the ability to offer electives students are asking for and need while increasing opportunities, labs, and courses to explore career and technical education fields – preparing our students for the jobs of tomorrow.

Community Information Sessions

Join us at a community information session to learn more about the November 8 referendum.

There are no upcoming events at this time.

Additional Information

Referendum Tax Impact Calculator

Fall 2022 Community Presentation

Fall 2022 Community Presentation

Community Survey #2 Results

Community Survey #1 Results

Site Selection Evaluation

May 2022 Community Presentation

May 2021 Community Presentation

La Crosse Population Study

District Facility Study

District's Long-Range Facility Plan


What factors are causing the declining enrollment? How much does open enrollment affect these numbers?

Demographics is the major cause for decreased enrollment – families having fewer children, current housing/neighborhoods are not attracting families with children, and housing stock not turning over. The open enrollment out of the district has not been a major cause of the decrease.

How do you know student enrollment will continue to decline?

A 2020 University of Wisconsin Applied Population Lab study showed a decline in student enrollment in all five of their modeling scenarios over the next ten years. The County’s land use projections for 2030 in their Comprehensive Plan indicate an increase in the population of just 150 total people for the City of La Crosse, Town of Shelby, and Town of Campbell.

Why was the Trane Headquarters site chosen?

After evaluating 11 potential sites within the community, the Trane site was the best location for many factors, such as size, location, availability, no known environmental concerns, and reuse of an existing facility. A 40-acre site is the minimum acreage needed for a high school of this size. Other possible sites were too small, unavailable, in a flood zone, or had environmental concerns. The reuse of the existing building lowers costs and is more environmentally friendly than building entirely new.

Are other sites being considered?

Not at this time. After evaluating 11 potential sites within the community, the Trane site was the best location for many factors, such as size, location, availability, no known environmental concerns, and reuse of an existing facility.

The Trane building was built in 1967 – why is the district investing in older buildings instead of building new?

The Trane building is in good condition and suitable for remodeling to meet future needs. The reuse of an existing building will lower construction costs and is environmentally friendly.

If the district has already purchased the Trane site and building, why are you asking the community for their input?

The District has not purchased the building and property, they have an agreement on the right to purchase. This agreement is contingent on passing a future referendum – no purchase will occur without a successful referendum.

Why is it more cost-effective to repurpose the existing Trane headquarters instead of just knocking it down and building everything new?

The core structure of the former Trane headquarters building is in good condition and capable of adding a third floor on the south end. While the renovation will be comprehensive to include electrical, HVAC, roofing, windows, etc., the reuse of the existing building lowers the total cost of the project by an estimated $30 million.

Does the Trane Headquarters site have any historical and/or environmental concerns? Will this limit or negatively impact site development?

We are aware that there is a historic cultural area located at the Trane site and we are working with the MVAC at UWL to take the appropriate steps. Based on the information we have at this point, we do not believe that this will affect the planned development of the site.

Will the new building have environmental “green” architectural features?

The budget currently includes a geothermal heating/cooling system and a solar panel system to generate electricity. Other energy-efficient features that will be planned into the design are LED lighting, occupancy sensors, natural lighting, and more.

Can the district spend more on this project than what it's asking for in the referendum?

No more money than is approved from the referendum may be taxed for the construction of the high school.

How much money is saved in annual operational costs if the referendum passes?

We estimate $4.5 million in annual operational cost savings.

What will the student capacity of the new high school be? Will that be enough to hold all current high school students?

The new high school will be built to accommodate 1,800 students. This will provide enough space for all high school students at the time of opening along with some flexibility if enrollments change in the future.

Will all practice and competition fields be located at the new high school site?

The current plans do not call for a football stadium at the site of the new high school. We anticipate that varsity football, soccer, and track competitions will take place at Swanson Field at Logan High School with a future renovation of the bleachers and expansion of the track to eight lanes. Junior varsity and freshman level competitions will be able to take place at the new high school. Varsity baseball will continue to compete at the La Crosse Logger’s field at Copeland Park and there is currently a varsity softball field at the adjacent State Road Elementary School.

How will you protect small class sizes at a new larger high school?

The annual operational cost savings of the consolidation will allow us to keep student-to-staffing ratios at their current, low levels. If we are not able to consolidate grades and buildings, we will have to consider higher student-to-staff ratios and a reduction of programs for students to balance budgets.

How specifically will educational and extracurricular opportunities for middle and high school students expand as a result of a successful referendum?

With all high school students in one building, we will be able to offer courses that students are asking for but are not currently able to offer due to not having enough students to hold a class in each separate building. We have significant differences in the career and technical education classes that we can offer in each high school due to labs that are not equal.

A new high school will allow us to ensure all students have equal access to modern labs that prepare students for the jobs of the future. With all high school students in one place, we will be able to offer more extracurricular activities like boys volleyball and lacrosse as well as new offerings for drama and intramural sports.

How are school district budgets limited?

Revenue limits are state-imposed controls on the amount of revenue for operating purposes a Wisconsin school district can receive in state aid and property taxes. Revenue limits were established in 1993 by state policy makers as a means of controlling property taxes.

Revenue Limit – State General Aid = Local property tax

How does the State provide funding for school districts?

The State provides funding through general aids, categorical aids for specific programs (e.g. special education, transportation), and property tax credits (these do not go directly to schools).

How does declining enrollment affect a school district’s budget?

A three-year rolling average of a school district’s pupil enrollment is used to calculate the district’s revenue limit. Only public school pupils who are residents of the district are counted for enrollment purposes. If public school students residing in La Crosse decline, the revenue limit for operating purposes will also decline.

What is the difference between an Operating Referendum and a Capital Referendum?

Wisconsin law permits districts to hold two types of referendums: a capital referendum, which is used to raise a set sum of money to fund building projects or improvement; and an operational referendum, which allows the district to exceed its revenue limit in order to pay for general educational expenses that affect all students.

The La Crosse community has a history of supporting investment in education by passing operating referendums every 5 years since 2004 and capital referendums in 2008 for upgrading existing school facilities including HVAC, safety and security systems, and again in 2012 for constructing and equipping Northside Elementary/Coulee Montessori.

How is the tax impact of a $194.7 million referendum related to the cost of constructing the building as opposed to the cost of paying the principal and interest on the loan?

First, the cost of the project is established. $194.7 million has been determined to be the cost of the project as stated in the referendum question. Then, the District figures out what the impact will be on taxpayers.

The tax impact of municipal bond funding takes into account both principal and interest payments over the life of the loan. This means that the current $.08 increase in tax impact includes a conservative maximum projected interest based upon increasing rates over time in the amount of $84.5 million over the life of the loan.

This is the most conservative tax impact. If we used a projected interest rate using rates we see in the municipal bond marketplace today, the projected interest would be closer to $68 million which would decrease the $.08 tax impact.

Is interest associated with capital debt paid from operating funds?

No. Interest on debt cannot be paid from operating funds. Capital debt is not within the revenue limit and a separate fund is designated for debt repayment.

How do School Districts reduce the cost of borrowing over time?

Unlike a house mortgage that has a flat amount for the entire payment period, a district is able to adjust the payment schedule over the life of 20-year loans. Based on the construction draw dates, the district will not be borrowing all of the $194.7 million at one time. Although state law dictates a maximum 20-year borrowing limit for school districts, with incremental borrowing, the 20 years will be extended to 23 years.

Using good financial management, the district has structured debt to coincide with existing drops in debt payments. This levels out the impact of new debt. Also, the District will use opportunities to refinance debt to save dollars over the life of the loan. As recently as 2020, the debt issued for Northside was refinanced saving the district over $1.2 million over the 20-year life of the loan.

How will the new high school ensure all students feel welcome?

A new high school will be built with a cohesive school community in mind. Spaces will be created to allow students to gather in smaller groups and multiple areas of the building will be utilized for lunch. Teachers and advisors already create connections within our existing high schools and will continue to do so in a new building. 

What is the draft financing plan to keep the mill rate from the referendum borrowing consistent over the repayment period?

The bonding will be structured as a series of borrowings over multiple years in alignment with current debt to keep the mill rate impact of the referendum consistent over the 23-year repayment period. A draft of the plan can be found here.

Will transportation be provided for students/families to the new and relocated facilities?

Yes, the district will work with our school bus partners and public transportation to determine necessary routes and shuttle services to serve high-need areas within the community and students located outside a determined radius of their school.

How long will it take for high school students on the Northside to get to the new high school?

Students would transition from an average walk time of 16 minutes to an average bus ride time of 20 minutes on three bus routes. For students, parents, and guardians that currently drive to Logan High School, the average drive time to school will increase by about eight minutes.

Will neighborhood / community services that exist continue and will transportation be provided to these services in their new locations?

Yes, current neighborhood and community services will continue to be provided. Transportation needs will be evaluated based on participant location and service/program location.

Will the Boys and Girls Club still have space?

Yes, the District will continue relationships with our community partners.

What will happen to the middle school charter schools that exist within the District?

The District intends to maintain the Charter schools and will work to find accommodations. The District will work with the Charter school boards and staff to identify the best location(s) as well as anticipated space needs.

With middle schools moving to the existing high schools, some spaces will not be equal to current middle school amenities (for example the auditorium at Logan MS vs. the auditorium at Logan HS). What will be done to provide equal spaces when converting the high schools to middle schools?

The conversion of the high schools will not require additions to either building. In general, the spaces at the high school will be immediate upgrades over the current middle schools. For spaces that do fall short, the district will work with staff to find opportunities to address needs via the use of available space and/or amenities.

Why not try a PK-6 and 7-12 building configuration solution?

We explored this idea early in the process of screening options. This configuration does improve middle school facility quality but because the high schools do not combine, this option does not provide the savings necessary to balance our budget.

Additionally, we heard concerns about younger students (7th and 8th) in the same building as older students (11th and 12th). The current designs of the existing high schools make it very challenging to separate middle school and high school students without significant costs.

Why not consolidate the high schools into Logan High School?

The capacity at Logan High School is currently 1070 students. The 30-acre site at Logan High School is too small for the additions necessary to create a high school that would need to accommodate 1,700-1,800 students.

Is it possible to add floors upwards at Logan High School to make it large enough to accomodate one high school?

No, it is not. We had engineers assess Logan High School and the footings are not robust enough to support more than a single 70-foot by 40-foot addition in one section of the building.

What is the current construction project happening at Central High School?

The high school office at Central is being moved from the second floor to the first floor near the main entrance. This is a project that was identified as necessary in 2017 and initiated in 2018 with the construction of a small office on the first floor for safety reasons. This project was scheduled to take place this summer and is now occurring.

Is Hogan Administrative Center moving to Central High School?

The renovation of the Central High School office will result in open space at the former high school office site for the Hogan Administrative Center to move into Central if the referendum passes. If the referendum does not pass, we will reevaluate whether that space can still accommodate staff from the Hogan Administrative Center or if that space will be needed for high school classrooms in the future.

How will the district work with the city and county to ease traffic congestion and concerns about student and neighborhood safety as a result of increased vehicle traffic?

We have met with the City of La Crosse to discuss what adjustments might be necessary to traffic patterns and roadways if a new high school is built at the former Trane headquarters. The site previously had over 800 vehicles traveling to it daily when the Trane headquarters was in operation so the streets are built for that traffic. Where traffic is congested and elementary students are present, we will place crossing guards like at other key points in the city.

Will the current high schools support middle school student needs and programming? Will changes be made to the current high school buildings and sites?

The current high schools will be an immediate improvement on the current middle school buildings. Some cosmetic changes will be made to the high school buildings to make them feel more like middle schools but not much more will be needed.

What will the transition plan look like for middle school moving to the two high school buildings?

If a referendum is successful, the planning, design, and construction of the project will take approximately 4 years. During this time, the district will work with the staff and community on a transition plan for the middle and high school students to the new configuration.

What are the timelines for changes if the referendum does/does not pass?

We will evaluate our other options from the long-range facility plan so that we can implement solutions as quickly as possible. Some of those options, like a 9-12 solution, may take up to ten years to implement as enrollments fall to match building capacities. Other solutions, like closing Lincoln Middle School, would likely happen as soon as next year.

What will happen to the existing middle school sites?

The existing middle school sites will be redeveloped to meet the community’s needs. The process will involve collaboration with the city, neighborhood associations, and community members to determine the best use of the properties.

Is Lincoln Middle School closing after this school year regardless of the referendum does or does not pass?

The closure of Lincoln Middle School is part of all of the options that we explored. A two middle school feeder system is already possible due to the existing capacity at Longfellow and Logan Middle Schools. A decision will be made on the timing of the closure of Lincoln Middle School in the near future.

Will teachers, administrators and other staff lose their jobs with the consolidations?

No, reduction in staffing will be as part of natural attrition due to retirements, relocation, new jobs, etc.

What will happen if the referendum does not pass?

We will follow other pathways from its long-range facility plan that was presented to the Board of Education in May of 2022. The long-range facility plan outlines the consolidation of buildings at all levels including at the elementary, middle, and high school to achieve the efficiency needed to balance our budget. This includes the potential closure of Lincoln Middle School, an elementary school, and if the financial situation does not change consolidation of the high schools in 5-10 years.


La Crosse Schools sends referendum update mailer

La Crosse Schools sends referendum update mailer

LA CROSSE, Wis., (September 19, 2022) – A great education prepares our kids for a successful future. Our students today are the builders, entrepreneurs, and leaders of tomorrow. Providing the best possible education is crucial for our kids’ future so that...

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