About the Operating Referendum

  • Referendum header


    Historic Vote Defines KM's Future

    The Kettle Moraine School District Board of Education and district-wide staff want to thank all of our community members who engaged us in discussion and thoughtful debate around the 2020 operating referendum.
    We spoke with over 200 citizens at 15-plus sessions and civic meetings. We held countless conversations at board meetings and school events. We hosted in-person meetings, answered emails and enjoyed many conversations via phone. And, we mailed over 68,000 pieces of factual literature to residents.
    We formed new relationships, strengthened many old ones, and we listened to our community. We are proud of our community for their engagement as we came together to discuss a funding solution. Voters approved the solution to be a recurring operating referendum, which begins in the 2020-21 school year.
    We believe this long-term commitment to education is the best path to sustain the excellence Kettle Moraine School District families have come to expect over the past 50-plus years. 
    We know this decision comes with great responsibility. We also know the COIVD-19 pandemic brings challenges that were not anticipated. We will get through it together. And, we will continue to make it a top priority to act as fiscally-conservative stewards of taxpayer funds.
    While we do not know when on-site classes will resume, we are looking forward to seeing families again and thanking members of our community in person. Until then, thank you from all of us at KM.
                   source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

    Ref header

    The Kettle Moraine School District has been making cuts for 13-plus years. There is very little left to trim. The Wisconsin state legislature provides districts the tool of referenda to give local communities the ability to define their level of support for schools.

    KM's school board unanimously voted Nov. 26, 2019 to allow residents to determine additional revenue through a recurring operating referendum on the April 7, 2020 ballot.  

    Without passage of a recurring operating referendum, Kettle Moraine School District will need to make more cuts. All areas will be affected.








    KMSD hosted KM Budget Forums, which gave community input into the 2020-21 cuts. The forums were open to the public and were held:

    - March 2 at Brandybrook Community Center: 9:30 - 11:30 a.m.
    - March 3 at Kettle Moraine High School auditorium: 4 - 5:30 p.m.
    - March 5 at Kettle Moraine High School auditorium: 6 - 8 p.m.


    This is a defining decision for the Kettle Moraine School District.


    ballot question

    What is the question on the April 7, 2020 ballot?

    Shall the School District of Kettle Moraine, Waukesha and Jefferson Counties, Wisconsin be authorized to exceed the revenue limit specified in Section 121.91, Wisconsin Statutes, by $2,500,000 for the 2020-2021 school year; by an additional $1,500,000 for the 2021-2022 school year; by an additional $1,500,000 for the 2022-2023 school year; and by an additional $1,500,000 (for a total of $7,000,000) for the 2023-2024 school year and thereafter, for the recurring purposes of sustaining educational programming and operational expenses?


    What is a Recurring Operating Referendum?

    It is not a short-term solution. A recurring operating referendum provides approved funding on an ongoing basis to sustain district operations. It asks permission from voters to exceed the state-imposed revenue limit, on an on-going basis, for the purpose of funding school operations. It is not a referendum to incur debt. 


    What is the total amount?

    KM is asking for what it needs, when KM needs it to keep its schools running as they are, with limited reinstatement of cuts made to the 2019-20 budget.  

    $2,500,000 for the 2020-2021 school year

    + $1,500,000 for the 2021-2022 school year

    + $1,500,000 for the 2022-2023 school year

    + $1,500,000 for the 2023-2024 school year

    ...which equals $7,000,000 in sustained funding on an annual basis.

    What is the tax impact?

    If voters approve the referendum, the current KMSD tax levy rate of $9.63 will increase 15 cents to $9.78 per $1,000 of property value. The rate of $9.78 is projected to remain through the 2023-24 school year (see graph below). Below are the projected ONE-TIME increases, which would be seen on 2020 tax bills:

     $37.50 - one-time tax increase for a home valued at $250,000 

     $45.00 - one-time tax increase for a home valued at $300,000

     $52.50 - one-time tax increase for a home valued at $350,000

     $60.00 - one-time tax increase for a home valued at $400,000

    tax impact chart


    Mill rates

    What will the Operating Referendum fund?

    Pay electric bills. Heat and cool buildings. Pay staff. Transport students to and from school. Provide health insurance. Fund sports and extra-curricular activities. Operating referendums are utilized for operating expenses. They are not used to incur debt. 

    Operational Referendum items


    Examples include:

    - Personnel

    - Transportation

    - Utilities

    - Programs

    - Co-curriculars


    More of the referendum dollars go to Kettle Moraine schools

    Unlike taxes paid to the State of Wisconsin, where KM receives just 19 cents back for every tax dollar, ALL OPERATING REFERENDUM DOLLARS STAY IN KM. Referendum provides a local solution to a local challenge, and keeps our money in our schools.


    What if the operating referendum fails?

    A failed referendum will force KM to make cuts to balance our 2020-2021 budget. Those cuts will come from several areas: staff, programs, services, extracurriculars, and athletics. This is a defining decision for KM.

    KM is not alone - operating referenda are the given tool for school districts.

    Revenue limits and the Wisconsin school funding formula have not provided adequate revenue for school districts across the state. A local referendum provides districts and their school boards the means to ask local taxpayers for additional funding. 

    In the past 26 years, the majority of school districts in Wisconsin have passed referenda - 697 in total - to fund operations. Some distircts have passed multiple referenda. 

    - View the DPI's site and click "Filter Data"
    - Review the 697 referenda passed since 1993

    referenda stats 81

    Source: Department of Public Instruction