News Column

Altoona school board approves $23 million referendum in fall

July 22, 2014

By Courtney Kueppers, The Leader-Telegram, Eau Claire, Wis.

July 22--ALTOONA -- Altoona residents will vote on a $23 million referendum in November to build a new elementary school and refurbish existing education buildings.

The school board unanimously voted to put the referendum on the Nov. 4 ballot at its Monday night meeting.

After more than a year of discussions on what to do about an overly cramped elementary school, Connie Biedron, school district superintendent, said she is happy to be moving forward.

If passed, the referendum will impose about a $150 annual tax increase per home valued at $150,000 and take 20 years to pay off, Biedron said, although she added the figure depends on interest rates and other factors.

The site of the new elementary school would be on the south side of Highway KB.

"It is not a decision that came lightly," said Helen Drawbert, school board president. "A lot of discussion went into this. The board is extremely excited to move forward, and it is time to educate everyone out there to get them to the polls in November."

A districtwide survey last year proposing four expansion options, at a cost ranging from $27.1 million to $41.5 million, found no clear favorites among respondents. After feeling out various solutions, a referendum made the most sense, Biedron said.

"This is a long-term solution," Biedron said, noting the proposed building site is about 56 acres, which allows "unlimited possibilities for growth in the future."

As for upgrading current structures, Drawbert said, the goal is to "make them safe the way they are supposed to be."

School board member David Rowe said the board "made the best choice" and he hopes "the city of Altoona and the school district will support (the school board)."

School board Vice President Robin Elvig said the board worked extremely hard to bring the cost down, noting the Altoona school district will contribute $400,000 annually to the project.

That contribution from the school district was a driving factor in school board clerk Mike Hilger supporting the referendum, he said, noting it brings the cost down considerably for taxpayers.

Biedron said the board will immediately start working on plans to educate the public and rally supporters for November's vote.

"It feels great that after all the work we have made a decision," she said. "We have a lot of work to do now."

Kueppers can be reached at 715-833-9203, 800-236-7077 or


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Source: Leader-Telegram (Eau Claire, WI)

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