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Community Facilities Advisory Committee

CFAC 2-Minute Videos: Parent & Employee Feedback On Potential Projects

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Those who have been following this video series understand that the Hamilton School Board established the Community Facilities Advisory Committee in October to study community growth, enrollment projections and facilities needs in the district. The committee also reviewed the condition and serviceability of other spaces including middle and high school cafeterias and high school outdoor athletic fields.

Citizens can find descriptions of those projects including costs and tax impacts on the video page of the district website.

In addition to studying the space issues, the committee sought input from parents and staff on potential facility projects. Results from online surveys administered in November 2021 were compared to 2017 referendum surveys and shared with the committee.

Key findings from the surveys were:

  • Parents and employees were in agreement about the need to address the cafeterias at Hamilton High School and Templeton Middle School.
  • They were less in accord regarding a new elementary school which employees saw as a higher need than parents.
  • Parents placed a higher priority on a new high school gym than employees did.
  • The least amount of support was for high school athletic fields.
  • Support for operational costs to address inflation was low for parents and employees.
  • A sizable portion of respondents could use more information about operational costs and potential athletic field work.
  • If all the projects were put to referendum, the tax impact is higher than what most survey respondents will accept.

In its report to the School Board last January, the committee recommended that the district educate employees, families and community members regarding the facility needs of the district.

Following community outreach efforts and a second round of surveys, the committee will meet again to present its final recommendation to the School Board.

Stay tuned for another 2-minute video next week.


CFAC 2-Minute Videos: Estimated Tax Impact on District Property Owners

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Last week’s 2-minute video outlined the costs of projects that the Community Facilities Advisory Committee reviewed to address space and facilities issues in the district. This video gets into the projects’ estimated tax impact on district property owners.

Nine different facilities projects were examined to address district needs. Remember, these projects represent what the Community Advisory Committee studied, not what it supported for a future referendum. It will deliberate later this year on whether any of these projects should be put to a vote in a districtwide referendum. Also, estimates for the costs and tax impact are based on market variables in October of 2021 and are subject to change.

Following are potential projects and their tax impact:
The committee reviewed three options for a new elementary school:
The first, was at a cost of $24 million, would result in a tax rate increase 41 cents per $1,000 of equalized value.

A simple way to understand how individual tax bills would be affected is to multiply the projected tax rate increase by 100 to determine the cost per $100,000 of property, then multiply that number by the property value expressed as a multiple of $100,000. A  tax rate increase of 41 cents per $1,000 of equalized property value equates to $41 for each $100,000 of property owned. The owner of a $300,000 home would multiply that number by 3 for a cost of $123, $500,000 by 5 which amounts to $205  and $700,000 by 7 for an additional $287 in taxes.

Another option was to build a $38 million school that would result in a tax increase of 65 cents. The cost per $100,000 of property value would be $65 which equates to $195 for the owner of a $300,000 home, $325 for a $500,000 home and $455 for a $700,000 home.

The third new elementary school option was at a cost of $41.5 million which is projected to increase the tax rate by 72 cents.The impact on the owner of a $300,000 home would be $216, an additional $360 for $500,000 of property value and $504 for owners of a $700,000 home.

Two options were considered to address the crowded and outdated cafeteria and kitchen at Hamilton High School. The $7 to 8.5 million option would increase the tax rate by 16 cents resulting in tax increases of $48 for a $300,000 home, $80 for a $500,000 home and $112 for a $700,000 home. The $18.3 million option would increase the tax rate by 32 cents resulting in tax increases of $96 for a $300,000 home, $160 for a $500,000 home and $224 for a $700,000 home.

Enlarging and renovating Templeton’s cafeteria at a cost of $1.2 million would increase the tax rate by 4 cents. This would translate into $12 for owners of $300,000 of property, $20 for $500,000 of property and $28 for $700,000 of property value. Similarly renovating the Templeton library at a cost of $1.4 million would also increase the tax rate by 4 cents with the same tax impact of $12 for those who own $300,000 of property, $20 for $500,000 and $28 for $700,000 of property value.

Finally, undertaking the $2.9 million Hamilton High School athletic field projects would increase the tax rate by 8 cents. This would result in an increase of $24 per year for owners of $300,000 homes, $40 for owners of $500,000 homes and $56 for those who own $700,000 of property in the district.

Check back next week for another 2-minute video to learn results of surveys designed to gauge initial parent and staff support for these projects.


CFAC 2-Minute Videos: Costs of Projects the CFAC Considered

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(Posted April 28, 2022) The first three videos of this 2-minute series covered space and facilities issues facing the Hamilton School District. The Community Facilities Advisory Committee also took a close look at the financial implications of addressing these  concerns. 

To recap, areas of concern that the committee identified were:

  • Anticipated lack of classroom space at Lannon;
  • Crowded common space at Hamilton High School and Templeton Middle School;
  • Athletic fields at Hamilton High School; and
  • Rising costs outpacing funding for schools.

A couple of caveats to keep in mind:

While many projects were considered, not all of them had committee support.

Also, these estimated costs were based on construction prices in November of 2021. If any of these projects would be recommended, actual costs would be determined based on when construction would occur.

Three potential solutions were considered to address Lannon’s lack of classroom space by building:

  • an additional small elementary school in the district at a cost of $24 million;
  • an additional small elementary school with a wing added to house Willow Spring 4K students at at cost of $41.5 million; or
  • a larger elementary school where Lannon students would attend, leaving Lannon as a school for the district’s 4K students at a cost of $38 million

Next, renovation and expansion projects were considered to address the lack of common space at the high school and middle school.

High school options included:

  • a simpler renovation and expansion of the high school cafeteria and kitchen at a cost of $7 to 8.5 million; or
  • renovating and expanding the cafeteria and kitchen by moving the cafeteria to the space occupied by the main gym, and building a new larger gym at a cost of $18.1-18.3 million.

Middle school ideas were to:

  • renovate and expand the cafeteria and kitchen at a cost of $1.2 million; and 
  • renovate and expand the library and large group area at a cost of $1.4 million

High school athletic field projects included:

  • relocating the baseball field to the football practice field area near the soccer field at a cost of $1.5 million; and
  • turfing the football field for $1.4 million.

More study is required to determine precise needs, but an operational referendum to address concerns about costs outpacing school revenue was studied. Factors that were considered included: 

  • Market compensation pressures
  • Supply and demand of quality staff
  • Increased technology replacement and maintenance costs

Remember, these projects represent what the Community Advisory Committee studied, not what it supported for a future referendum.

Stay tuned for the next 2-minute video that will take a look at the impact these projects could have on property taxes.


CFAC 2-Minute Videos: Capital vs. Operational

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(Posted April 12, 2022) In Wisconsin, school district referendums raise money for two purposes: capital projects and operational expenses. The Hamilton School District Community Facilities Advisory Committee looked at the possibility of each type of referendum to address facility and financial needs in the district.

This 2-minute video describes both types of referendums and how they could be used in the Hamilton School District.

Referendums allow citizens to have direct say in a decision to increase taxes for particular projects or expenses. 

Capital referendums:

Referendums for capital projects are similar to homeowners asking for a loan for a mortgage. The money is typically used for construction of new buildings, additions and renovations or maintenance of existing ones. 

But instead of going to a bank to ask for a loan, school districts issue general obligation bonds on the open market and investors bid on them. The school district gets cash in the short term and agrees to pay back the principal and interest over a fixed period of time using property taxes.

The interest rate is based, in large degree, on the district’s bond rating. The higher the bond rating, the lower the interest rate to sell the bonds. Hamilton has one of the highest bond ratings among Wisconsin school districts and that has translated into lower interest rates for referendum projects.

Operational referendums:

The second type of referendum is for operational expenses. Citizens are asked to approve an increase in taxes above the state-imposed revenue limit. The funds generated from the additional taxes are used for things such as paying employee salaries, utilities, insurance and other items necessary to operate the school district.

There are two types of operational referendum questions in Wisconsin: a recurring question and a non-recurring question.

  • A recurring question allows districts to exceed the revenue cap permanently.
  • A non-recurring question limits the period of time a district can exceed the revenue cap and requires future approval from voters to continue.

Stay tuned for another 2-minute video next week.


CFAC 2-Minute Videos: Referendums in the Hamilton School District

(Posted March 31, 2022) Over the Hamilton School District’s 60-year history, its enrollment has more than doubled, five entirely new buildings were constructed and dozens of addition-and-renovation projects were completed.

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At times, smaller projects were funded through the district’s operational budget, but when construction costs required the district to take on debt or operational costs were needed, referendums were held. This 2-minute video looks at the process of going to referendum and past results.

Before considering a referendum, the district convenes a Community Facilities Advisory Committee that reviews facility and financial data about the district. Various stakeholders, such as parents, local businesses, senior citizens, employees and community members comprise the committee. They are asked to review data and identify options to address the district’s needs. 

Several past committees have recommended that the School Board take no immediate action, but rather re-evaluate the situation at a later time.

In the past 30 years, however, the Hamilton School District has gone to referendum six times. While proposals for a swimming pool, an auditorium and operational costs were not always approved – each time the community had an opportunity to weigh in on a new school or classroom additions, they voted yes.

  • In 1992, voters approved a referendum to add on to Marcy Elementary School and construct a new gymnasium at Templeton Middle School.
  • In 1994, an extensive renovation-and-addition project for Lannon Elementary School and a science wing at the high school were approved.
  • In 1997, the construction of Woodside Elementary School, a new gymnasium for Maple Avenue Elementary School and classroom additions for Maple Avenue and Templeton were approved. In that same referendum, proposals for a fine arts center, swimming pool and operational costs for Woodside were rejected. One year later, operational costs for Woodside were approved.
  • In 2002, the fine arts center and a Marcy classroom addition was approved, however, the operational costs for the new fine arts center were not.
  • Finally, in 2018, voters approved the building of Silver Spring Intermediate School along with its operational costs as well as Hamilton High School addition-and-renovation projects.

Stay tuned for next week’s 2-minute video that will discuss the differences between referendums for capital improvements versus operational costs.


CFAC 2-Minute Videos: Why Hamilton’s Mill Rate Dropped After the 2018 Referendum

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(Posted March 17, 2022) Property owners in the Hamilton School District are enjoying the lowest mill rate in the district’s 60-year history. At its height in the 1970s, the district mill rate reached $25.69 — significantly higher than the current rate of $7.93. The district is experiencing this low tax rate in spite of the fact that voters approved a referendum in 2018 that was expected to increase the mill rate by $1.37.

This 2-minute video takes a look at the factors that determine school tax rates and why Hamilton’s mill rate actually dropped after passage of the last referendum.

First, some general terms:

The tax levy is the portion of the budget that is funded through local property taxes. Local property taxes and state aid are the two most significant sources of revenue for the school district. Federal aid and local fees are other revenue sources.

The tax base is the total value of all property in the district that is subject to local property taxes. 

The tax levy divided by the tax base is the tax rate. It is expressed in terms of dollars per thousand, or a mill rate. With the current mill rate at $7.93, property owners pay $7.93 for each $1,000 of property to support the local school district.

A number of factors can affect the tax rate, but the three most prominent are:

  • spending
  • amount of state aid received and 
  • property value in the community.

Let’s look at how each of these affects the Hamilton School District.

When the Wisconsin Legislature enacted revenue caps in 1993, Hamilton was a lower-spending district and the inequities with other school districts were locked in making Hamilton one of the lowest spending districts in the area.

When a greater portion of revenue comes from state aid, local property taxpayers have a smaller share of the tax burden. Distribution of state aid is a complex formula with student enrollment one aspect of it. Hamilton’s enrollment growth is reflected in the amount of aid the district receives. 

When property values increase – either because the value of existing homes increases or new development occurs – there is a broader base to support the budget and the rate goes down. In Hamilton’s case, the value of existing property and new homes being built have been consistently higher than the state average. 

When voters approved the referendum in 2018, they were expecting the mill rate to increase $1.37 – from $8.55 to $9.92. Instead, four years after the referendum passed, the district’s mill rate is down 62 cents.

Among all the factors affecting the mill rate, community property value growth had the most significant impact. In projecting the tax impact of the referendum, the district estimated a 2% increase in property value. The average annual increase over the past four years was actually 6.28%.


CFAC 2-Minute Videos: Recent Impacts On District Budget

(Posted March 10, 2022) Last week we learned about the impact that 30 years of revenue caps have had on school district operational budgets. This week the focus will be on more recent developments in school funding.

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Recently, district officials were hopeful that federal ESSER funds, which were authorized to help school districts deal with the additional expenses brought about because of the pandemic, could provide some relief for the district. However, the state Legislature, believing the federal funding would provide adequate help for Wisconsin school districts, froze per-pupil funding for the 2021-22 and 2022-23 school years. 

Unfortunately for Hamilton, ESSER funds were not distributed uniformly among school districts.  Hamilton was allocated a relatively minimal amount from ESSER funds, while other districts received significantly more. Hamilton is receiving a double whammy with lack of additional state aid and less-than-anticipated federal funding to recoup COVID costs.

Today’s inflation is yet one more factor complicating an already dire financial situation for the district, creating a financial cliff that could soon have a dramatic impact on educational programming.

One solution that the Community Facilities Advisory Committee explored is an operational referendum which 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, but for ongoing operational expenses.


CFAC 2-minute videos: Impact of Revenue Caps on the District Budget

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(Posted March 3, 2022) To understand the state of finances in the Hamilton School District today, you need to go back nearly 30 years ago when the Wisconsin State Legislature implemented revenue caps. Since 1993, school districts have operated under limits which restrict them from generating revenue through state aid and local property taxes. The limit is based on enrollment changes and any additional funds provided by the Legislature, but these additions have not kept up with the annual cost-of-living or inflationary increases embedded within district budgets.

When revenue caps were put in place, it essentially locked in program and staffing inequities that previously existed. Then, Hamilton School District was a more rural district than it is now and programming was not consistent with neighboring districts. To add programming that other districts had, the district needed to reallocate funds from the existing budget or find savings elsewhere. 

That is why neighboring districts are able to spend as much as $950 more per pupil than the Hamilton district does. 

30 years of revenues not keeping pace with inflation have meant budget cuts and reallocated resources – always with the intent of keeping cuts as far away from the classroom as possible. Through the years the district has required employees to pay a greater share for retirement contributions, eliminated post-employment healthcare coverage through conversion to a Health Retirement Account, implemented energy-efficient practices and restructured debt several times. Significantly, the district has made changes to its self-funded employee medical and drug plan that has kept healthcare expenses below national average increases.

With nearly 55% of the budget allocated to direct instruction that goes into the classroom – such as teachers, instructional assistants, textbooks, computers and desks – and another 40% for services that support instruction, future cuts will have an impact on the educational program.

Stay tuned for next week’s 2-minute video that will provide more information about the district’s financial situation, including federal ESSER funds.


CFAC 2-minute videos: Other School Facilities Needs

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(Posted Feb. 24, 2022) The previous 2-minute video described the process the district uses to project future enrollment. We learned that while most schools in the district will be able to handle enrollment growth due to subdivision development, Lannon Elementary School will be beyond its classroom capacity within the next five years.

The Community Facilities Advisory Committee also looked at other facilities needs in addition to classroom space.

Hamilton High School was built in 1962, and since then, it has had numerous classroom additions. When the high school was built, student enrollment at the high school was about half of its current enrollment. Substantial classroom additions through the years accommodated the growing school enrollment. Not only were classrooms added to the high school, but athletic, theater and other common spaces were also added or expanded. 

The cafeteria, however, is the same as it was in 1962 when the school had about 50% fewer students than its current enrollment. This space is now crowded for students. Kitchen equipment is outdated and difficult to maintain due to age.

Building of Silver Spring Intermediate School, which was opened in the fall of 2019, alleviated classroom space issues for Templeton Middle School because sixth grade was moved to Silver Spring. While Templeton’s total enrollment decreased, the size of each grade has continued growing.

Having each grade eat lunch in the same period results in efficient scheduling during the school day – something that ultimately saves money for the district in instructional costs. The cafeteria, however, is not able to accommodate the current size of each grade.

 Finally, renovations and upgrades to outdoor athletic facilities could increase and maximize student opportunities. The current configuration of the baseball field prevents simultaneous use of the track and football field when baseball is being played. Relocating the baseball field would allow for scheduling baseball as well as track and football events at the same time. This flexibility in scheduling will accommodate more events on the football field.  Also, turfing the football field would increase the number of athletic team practices, games and marching band events.

The Community Facilities Advisory Committee reviewed the needs and prioritized classroom and cafeteria needs if the district were to consider a referendum.


CFAC 2-minute videos: Projecting Enrollment

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(Posted Feb. 17, 2022) – This is the second in a series of 2-minute videos highlighting the findings of the Community Facilities Advisory Committee that the Hamilton School Board commissioned in October to review growth and facilities needs in the district.

In the first 2-minute video, we saw that municipalities approved 1,757 new residential lots in the Hamilton School District, and yet school officials are estimating the new development will produce only 280 additional students in the next five years. Some may wonder if enrollment projections are too low.

This video examines the process used to project enrollment in a growing community.

The last time the Hamilton School District went to referendum to add more classrooms was in 2018. Like now, the district gathered information from municipalities regarding home sites that would be available in the next five years. THEN – municipalities reported that approximately 1,500 home sites were available. In four years, 66% of those sites were built — with the district experiencing 1.1% annual enrollment growth.

To project future enrollment, current class sizes were rolled forward and 1.1% growth was added based on the district’s recent experience. In addition, home site availability by school attendance area was factored in.

Because Silver Spring Intermediate is new and Hamilton High had recent classroom additions, they will be able to handle future enrollment growth. This is what we expect to see using the enrollment model at other schools. Here are enrollment projections for each of the schools: Willow Springs Learning Center, Maple Ave. Elementary, Marcy Elementary, Woodside Elementary and Templeton Middle School.

Most schools will remain below their enrollment of 2018 when several of them were past capacity. The exception is Lannon Elementary School which will exceed its previous enrollment.


CFAC 2-minute videos: Community Growth

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(Posted Feb. 8, 2022) – This is one in a series of 2-minute videos highlighting the findings of the Community Facilities Advisory Committee that the Hamilton School Board commissioned in October to review growth and facilities needs in the district. Our first topic is community growth.

The communities of the Hamilton School District are growing. At least 1,757 residential lots have been approved for development, and more subdivisions are expected. Villages, cities and towns — not the school district — approve subdivisions, but schools must accommodate the increased student enrollments that new community development brings. In the next five years, enrollment in the Hamilton School District is projected to increase from 4,980 students to 5,260 – an increase of 280 students.

Growth is not new for the district. The district has undertaken dozens of additions and renovations, along with the construction of three new buildings to keep up with the consistent enrollment growth that we have experienced in the past three decades.

The most recent new school built was Silver Spring Intermediate School, which voters approved in a 2018 referendum. Silver Spring alleviated enrollment pressures at the middle and elementary schools. In that same referendum, classrooms were added to the high school expanding capacity there.

Looking forward, all schools except for Lannon elementary are positioned well to handle new students. Subdivisions approved in the eastern portion of the district, however, will bring students to Lannon that will put it over capacity and accelerate Marcy’s enrollment. One potential solution to anticipated crowding at Lannon considered by the facilities committee is construction of a new elementary school that would accommodate the Lannon attendance area as well as a few newly-approved subdivisions from the Marcy. This would ensure that both schools would continue to provide suitable space for students.. Lannon School could then be the location for the district’s 4-year-old kindergarten program which is now housed at Willow Springs Learning Center.

Stay tuned for another 2-minute video next week.


CFAC presents report to School Board

(Posted Jan. 18, 2022) – The Hamilton School Board accepted a report from the Community Facilities Advisory Committee (CFAC) Jan. 17 to educate employees, families and community members regarding the facility needs of the district. Once a communication plan is implemented, the committee recommended conducting additional surveys in the future to determine level of support for a potential referendum.

The School Board established the CFAC in October to study community growth, enrollment projections and facilities needs in the district. After reviewing the latest data from municipalities, the committee learned that subdivision development is expected to bring 1,757 new housing units to the district, resulting in an additional 284 students in the next five years.

The committee also reviewed the condition and serviceability of other spaces including middle and high school cafeterias and high school outdoor athletic fields. Before making recommendations to the School Board, the committee sought input in November 2021 from parents and staff on potential facility projects and learned that a large number of people were not aware of the need for new and improved facilities.

Committee members Eric Loferski and Sue Posh, along with Business Services Assistant Superintendent Shelli Reilly and Human Resources Director John Roubik presented the report. Among the facilities needs identified were limited space for additional enrollment at Lannon Elementary School and overcrowded cafeterias at Hamilton High School and Templeton Middle School. 

In addition, the district’s financial situation will be difficult due to the freezing of state aid for 2021-22 and 2022-23. The Legislature froze state aid because school districts were to receive federal COVID relief funding. However, funding was not uniform and Hamilton was allocated a relatively smaller share of the funds. The combination of increased inflation, limited federal COVID relief funding and a two-year freeze to school districts will create a significant financial hardship for Hamilton.

CFAC reviewed more than 10 potential facilities options with five having the greatest consideration. They were:

  • Build a new elementary school on district-owned property on Silver Spring for Lannon students and children from new subdivision development. Willow Spring Learning Center students will relocate to the Lannon school. Cost would be $38 million for the new school and additional costs for minor renovation at Lannon. The Willow Spring building would be sold to offset costs.
  • Renovate and expand the high school cafeteria and kitchen with one option pushing the cafeteria into the current student parking lot ($8.5 million) and another plan to move the cafeteria and kitchen into the current main gym and construct a new gym ($18.3 million).
  • Renovate and expand the Templeton cafeteria and library at a cost of $2.6 million.
  • Update high school athletic field. Because this project received low support in the surveys, the committee recommended having a separate fundraising campaign rather than putting it on a referendum.
  • Develop a plan detailing how additional operational funding would be used based on the state’s plan for future funding.

School Board members expressed their opinions about the projects and operational costs. Mike Hyland said he was concerned about the district’s overall debt and the need to prioritize the high school cafeteria. Brian Schneider said he would like to see a less expensive cafeteria option and better defined operational costs. Jay Jones wants to see the district get ahead of pending increased enrollments from subdivision growth. Gabe Kolesari spoke to the issue of inflation and the difficulty to communicate effectively to all members of the public.

The School Board accepted the CFAC recommendations to present at a future meeting following community outreach efforts and a second round of surveys.


Facility survey results presented to CFAC

(Posted Jan. 10, 2022) – The Hamilton School Board established the Community Facilities Advisory Committee (CFAC) in October to study community growth, enrollment projections and facilities needs in the district. After reviewing the latest data from municipalities, the committee learned that subdivision development is expected to bring 1,757 new housing units to the district, resulting in an additional 284 students in the next five years.

The committee also reviewed the condition and serviceability of other spaces including middle and high school cafeterias and high school outdoor athletic fields.

Before making recommendations to the School Board, the committee sought input from parents and staff on potential facility projects. Results from online surveys administered in November 2021 were compared to 2017 referendum surveys and shared with the committee in December. CFAC members were provided with a handout highlighting the 2021 vs. 2017 survey results. The CFAC will present its findings and recommendations Jan. 18 in a report to the School Board. Expect to learn more about that report following the meeting.