Select Page

VOTE NOVEMBER 5, 2024

Elementary Upgrade Referendum 2024

The 2024 Elementary Upgrade Referendum charts the course to meet the needs of today’s and tomorrow’s students and inspire a shared vision for the future of learning in the La Crosse community.

Referendum 2024 logo

The Challenge

Fewer Students: District enrollment has fallen by 29% over the last 30 years. Currently, our elementary buildings operate at just 68% capacity.The district lost 719 elementary students in eight years.

Lower Revenue: Fewer students means less revenue from the state to operate schools. Consolidating buildings is the best way to allocate resources to students, classrooms, and learning.

Aging Buildings: The elementary buildings affected are an average of 70 years old. Consolidating into new and updated buildings is more affordable than the estimated $118M needed just to maintain and improve the district’s existing buildings over the next 15 years to keep them safe for students.

The Solution

How much is the referendum?: The $53,500,000 referendum, which is just a $0.44 increase over the current mill rate, funds a new, centrally located elementary school, inspired by Northside Elementary, and additions and upgrades to State Road Elementary.

Which buildings will close: Emerson, Spence, and Hintgen Elementary Schools and the Hogan Administrative Center

Where will the affected students go?: Most students, teachers, and staff from Emerson and Spence elementary schools will move to a brand new, consolidated school at the site of the current Hogan Administrative Building. Most students from Hintgen Elementary will move to State Road Elementary, improved with eight new classrooms and a gym. Some students from Spence and Hintgen will move to Hamilton Elementary.

Upcoming Events: School District of La Crosse Referendum

Join us for community engagement and information sessions regarding the upcoming referendum for the School District of La Crosse. Your participation is crucial in shaping the future of our schools.

Here, you will find a calendar listing all upcoming sessions and Board of Education meetings. We look forward to your involvement and input.

Check back frequently for updates and new event listings.

FAQs

Why are we pursuing this plan?

We have lower revenue due to fewer students, and aging buildings. This elementary upgrade will support our teachers, attract new students, balance the budget, upgrade classrooms, focus our resources, and strengthen our communities.

Why is enrollment declining?

We have 30% fewer students over 30 years due to a 30% reduction in the birth rate. This referendum will upgrade our elementaries while moving from 9 to 7 elementaries to adapt to fewer students.*

*Wisconsin Department of Health Services: Birth Rate Data from 1950 to 2022

Why do we have less revenue?

Fewer students means less revenue and state funding has not kept up with inflation.* Fewer old and outdated buildings will decrease maintenance costs and staffing efficiencies will balance the budget.

*Department of Public Instruction: Longitudinal Revenue Limit Data; WASB: 2023-2025 State Budget

How old are the affected buildings?

The average age of the elementary buildings affected is 70 years old – these buildings were not built for today’s education. Fewer old and outdated buildings decrease maintenance costs by $12.8M.*

*School District of La Crosse: 2023-2024 Capital Maintenance and Improvement Book 

Why do we need a new school?

An elementary upgrade provides a better education for our students and attracts students to La Crosse. Modern classrooms and technology improve student learning and new facilities are more efficient.

How much is the referendum?

The $53.5M referendum funds a new centrally located elementary school, modeled after Northside Elementary, and additions and upgrades to State Road Elementary. The elementary upgrade supports teachers, attracts new students, and improves classrooms.

Which buildings will close?

Emerson, Spence, and Hintgen Elementary schools along with the Hogan Administrative Center. Fewer old and outdated buildings will decrease maintenance costs and staffing efficiencies will balance the budget.

Where will affected students go?

Most students, teachers, and staff from Emerson and Spence Elementaries will move to a brand new, consolidated school at the site of the current Hogan Administrative Center, with some students attending the recently improved Hamilton Elementary.*

Most students, teachers, and staff from Hintgen Elementary will move to State Road Elementary with eight new classrooms and a gym, with some students attending the recently improved Hamilton Elementary. This plan strengthens communities by keeping the most teachers and students together and results in 57% of students living closer to their new school location.

*School District of La Crosse: Proposed Boundaries and Demographics

What about the Facility Advisory Committee (FAC) recommendation?

The FAC recommended closing two elementary schools and this plan does that.* Three of the four buildings the FAC focused on are addressed through this plan. The FAC recommendation asked the Board to consider consolidation through referendum which this plan does. 

*School District of La Crosse: Facility Advisory Committee Recommendation Report

Why not just close buildings?

This plan reduces elementary buildings from 9 to 7 and closes four aging buildings to focus resources and balance the budget. An elementary upgrade supports teachers, attracts new students to La Crosse, and improves classrooms. 

What about remodeling instead?

Buildings built 70 years ago cannot be updated to meet today’s standards without extreme costs. Closing aging buildings will save $12.8M in maintenance costs and an elementary upgrade will support teachers, improve classrooms and focus resources.*

*School District of La Crosse: 2023-2024 Capital Maintenance and Improvement Book 

What size will the new buildings be?

The new elementary school at the Hogan site will hold 550 students, just like Northside Elementary. The updated State Road Elementary will hold 450 students. The new buildings will provide updated classrooms, focus resources, and attract new students. 

Why use the Hogan site?

The Hogan site is centrally located for the new attendance area that will be created. With this plan, our community will be strengthened with 57% of students living closer to their new school location.

Will the new building fit on the Hogan site?

The new building will be about the same size and footprint as Northside Elementary. The Hogan site is one acre larger than the Northside site. Additionally, these newer and improved facilities will run with increased efficiency.

How will the new school building be laid out on the existing Hogan site?

The layout for the new elementary school at the Hogan site is still being determined. The final design will consider safe drop-off and pickup areas, building design, green space functionality, and neighborhood aesthetics.

How will transportation be impacted, will there be more bussing?

With this plan, 57% of students will live closer to their new building. There will be less bussing, transportation costs will decrease, and more students will be able to walk to school, strengthening our communities. 

What will the new boundaries be?

The boundaries will follow the existing boundaries of the affected schools limiting the impact on students. The plan strengthens our communities by keeping teachers and students together in new locations. 57% of students will live closer to their new building.*

*School District of La Crosse: Proposed Boundaries and Demographics

Is Hogan a historic site?

The Hogan site is not a historic site. The City has not taken any action to make Hogan a historic site. If Hogan were designated a historic site, the district would appeal the decision to the City Council.

What is the tax impact of the referendum?

The difference in the tax rate between this year and next will be $0.40 or $40 per $100,000 of property value. The gross tax impact is $0.62. The tax rate will still be $4.00 less than ten years ago and lower than 38 of the last 40 years. Additionally, school capital improvements increase homeowner equity in their property.*

*Department of Public Instruction: Longitudinal Levy Data; School District of La Crosse: Levy Data

How have taxes changed over the last ten years?

The school tax rate has gone down 9 of the last 10 years.* With the elementary upgrade, the tax rate will still be $4.00 less than ten years ago and lower than 38 of the last 40 years. Plus, with fewer old or outdated buildings our maintenance costs will decrease by $12.8M.**

*Department of Public Instruction: Longitudinal Levy Data; School District of La Crosse: Levy Data

**School District of La Crosse: 2023-2024 Capital Maintenance and Improvement Book 

How does this referendum balance the budget?

The referendum closes four aging buildings and reduces from 9 to 7 elementaries. With fewer elementaries, we cut $2.5M in expenses and balance the budget. Additionally, we will be able to focus resources and provide the same level of service at fewer schools reaching more students.

How can we build a new school and balance the budget?

The referendum closes four aging buildings and moves from 9 to 7 elementaries. With fewer elementaries, we cut $2.5M in expenses and balance the budget while upgrading elementaries that attract new students, upgrade classrooms, and support teachers.

What about the April 2023 referendum?

The April 2023 referendum was for basic operations – to keep our great teachers, maintain essential student supports, and fix up our middle schools.* This referendum is for school facilities to upgrade our elementary schools which will attract new students, improve our classrooms, and support our teachers. Additionally, we will have fewer buildings which lowers costs to balance the budget.

*School District of La Crosse: 2023 Operational Referendum Presentation

How are we keeping great teachers in our schools?

Our teachers have great pay, benefits, and working environment in La Crosse. Teacher pay and post-employment benefits are the highest in the area and the student to teacher ratio in La Crosse is the lowest in the area. 

When are prior capital referenda paid off?

The 2008 capital referendum for safety, HVAC and other urgent needs will be paid off in 2025, corresponding with the start of this referendum. The 2014 capital referendum for Northside Elementary will be paid off in 2033.* Prudent financial planning has allowed us to pursue this referendum and minimize the impact on taxpayers from one year to the next.

*School District of La Crosse: 2023-24 Budget Plan

What would happen to the old buildings?

Just like with Roosevelt Elementary* and Lincoln Middle School, we would engage the community to determine the site’s future. The District could retain the property or sell it. Future uses could be anything from a daycare site, to a community center, to a business incubator, to housing or a park. We will keep our communities strong by collaborating with the neighborhoods to find the right solution for each site.

*Roosevelt Apartments

What if the referendum fails?

We have fewer options if the referendum fails to balance our budget. Two primary options are to either close buildings by scattering students and staff to other buildings or to cut 40-45 staff members. These remaining options negatively impact the programs we can offer, increase our student-to-teacher ratios, and fracture the cohesiveness of our communities. 

How do we keep up with necessary maintenance?

We spend $1.2M per year on maintenance and capital improvements to maintain safe, healthy, and effective schools. However, it is not enough to keep up with the growing needs at our oldest buildings. The affected buildings have $12.8M in maintenance needs, average 70 years old and are at the end of their designed life cycle.* An elementary upgrade will provide buildings with improved classroom technology to aid learning and modern classrooms designed to enhance learning to meet today’s students needs.

*School District of La Crosse: 2023-2024 Capital Maintenance and Improvement Book

With declining enrollment, have we reduced staffing?

We have cut 42 positions in the last three years as enrollment has declined. Unfortunately, state revenue is decreasing faster than we can appropriately cut staff. Consolidating our elementaries from 9 to 7 buildings will allow us to balance the budget by focusing resources in fewer schools and eliminate $12.8M in maintenance of old buildings.*

*School District of La Crosse: 2023-2024 Capital Maintenance and Improvement Book 

How will existing programs be affected?

This referendum will allow us to keep the great programs we have and keep class sizes low by balancing the budget. This elementary upgrade referendum focuses resources and improves classrooms for students. 

If I don’t have kids how will I benefit?

A better education for students makes our economy stronger, our neighborhoods safer, and our community a better place to live, work, and learn. Upgrading our elementary schools will improve the education of our students, attract new students to La Crosse and increase home property values.*

*Yale School of Management: Does Capital Spending on Schools Improve Education?

How does open enrollment impact La Crosse?

About the same number of students open enroll out and open enroll into La Crosse.* However, we have experienced a net loss over the last two years. Upgrading our elementaries will provide new and updated facilities that appeal to families, attracting new students to the district.

*School District of La Crosse: 2023-24 Budget Plan

What is going on with Lincoln Middle School?

After the closure of Lincoln Middle School, we engaged our community to find out what use they would like for the site. With that information, we sought an interested developer who could meet the community’s needs. We now have a purchase agreement in place with an organization that is going to develop the property into affordable housing and maintain the historic character of the building – matching exactly what we heard from the community. 

How does this referendum meet the needs of students with special needs?

The buildings that would close are on average 70 years old and were not built to accommodate students or community members with handicaps or who use wheelchairs.* Upgrading our elementaries will result in elementaries that are built to today’s standards, including ADA accessibility, and the unique needs of students in special education.

*School District of La Crosse: 2023-2024 Capital Maintenance and Improvement Book 

We Want to Hear From You!

If you have questions, comments, or concerns about the upcoming School District of La Crosse referendum, please let us know. Fill out the form below, and a member of our team will respond to you as soon as possible. Your feedback is important to us!