Holmen, Wisc., Plans for New Elementary School

HOLMEN, Wis. - Voters in the Holmen School District will decide in a Nov 6 special referendum whether to build a $15 million elementary school and to exceed revenue limits by $537,000 annually for operating expenses at two schools.

The Holmen School Board unanimously voted Monday to put two funding questions on the ballot:

* $17.1 million for construction of a $15 million, 540-student elementary school, $1.8 million for installation of a new heating and cooling system at Evergreen Elementary and $300,000 to finish improvements at Viking Elementary School.

* $536,952 for annually recurring operating costs - $521,952 at the new school and $15,000 at Evergreen. The spending would require exceeding state-mandated revenue caps, thus the need for the public approval.

Past board member Francis Brown was the only resident to speak on the referendum. He said he approved of the new construction but requested the operating expenses override be limited to five years.

"I'd be very opposed to have it without an end to it," he said.

District Administrator Fred Frick said he understood the concern, but the funding without a time limit is necessary to maintain operating costs over time.

"When you or I buy a house, the costs go on for years and years and years, and you better be prepared for that," he said. The board agreed.

As proposed by the Facility Committee, the plan is to model the new school on the Sand Lake Elementary design, and have it open as early as fall 2009. The district already has acquired the site from Larry Brueske, a developer whose large swath of land near Hwys. 53 and 35 was annexed to Holmen last year from the town of Holland.

Because the district will pay off some existing debt, the building referendum would not increase the tax rate, Facilities Committee chairman Larry Olson said. The building portion of the referendum is expected to cost $1.87 per $1,000 in equalized property value, but would be offset by a reduction in the district's payments on previous borrowing.