AHS District Community Rejects 2016 Referendum


Arrowhead High School north campus front doors

Maraba Roznik and Logan Winser

On November 8th, Arrowhead Union High School’s 2016 referendum was rejected by district voters. According to the Daily Reporter, only Chippewa Falls and Arrowhead’s referendums were shut down in the southeast region of wisconsin. Thirty three other schools put forth referendums that passed.

The Arrowhead referendum was broken up into two separate questions that voters were able to respond to. The first part was in regards to campus-wide improvements that would cost $64,700,000. According to public information flyers for the referendum on the Arrowhead website, the last facilities referendum was in 1999. Over the last 17 years, many basic building systems such as the pool and theatre, other infrastructures, and classroom spaces have become outdated, old, or undersized.

AHS district Superintendent Laura Myrah said, “Many of the identified projects in the facilities referendum are important for maintaining the safety, accessibility and infrastructure of our school buildings.”

A majority of the $64,700,000 would have gone to upgrading emergency and electrical systems, roofing, lighting, plumbing, the campus stormwater management systems, and roadways and parking. The school board projected that these improvements would cost $20,200,000.

In addition to maintenance upgrades, the school board added new and larger infrastructure to the referendum. The proposed plan included the construction of a 12,000 seat fine arts auditorium, orchestra, and ADA accessible dressing rooms at north campus, all costing $13,600,000.

Along with a new theatre, AHS wanted to put $14,600,000 into the construction of a new 8-laned, 40-yard swimming pool, complete with expanded deck space and 600 spectator seating.

The second part of the referendum responded to the need for annual operational fundings to sustain ongoing maintenance that would cost $173,000 per year.

According to the AHS website, the referendum would have resulted in a tax increase of  $0.74 per $1000 of property value ($0.71 for question 1 and $0.03 for question 2).

Voters in the Arrowhead District turned down both parts of the AHS referendum. According to Myrah, 10,488 voters were against the referendum, which is 54.2% of voters, while 8,8865 voters (45.8%) voted for it.

Myrah said, “These infrastructure maintenance and facility update projects remain a priority; the needs don’t evaporate as a result of a failed vote. Our School Board and Administration will promptly begin discussions to plan responsibly for the future of our district’s facilities and educational programs.”

School Board President Robert Rosch said,

“Voters can be engaged in their school or voters can be disengaged because of the cost. Interesting is that over 8000 people supported the idea which is encouraging. Obviously more voted against it, which is their right. The School Board did their job by advising the community of what is needed at Arrowhead to sustain the great school it is.”

With the referendum turned down, the school board has to start all over again. The school board has a series of meetings coming up, one being on Monday, November 21st at 5:00 PM, to discuss future options. Rosch talked about the school board’s plans and what needs to be done.

“The variety of needs for the school remain, and it is our responsibility to face these head on and develop a plan,” said Rosch. “That could mean trying to continue to do what we have been each year, it could include another potential referendum.”

Rosch concluded, “Despite the referendum failing to gain a majority of community votes, the Board is grateful for the participation of staff, parents, and community members throughout the process.”