Wheatland J1 School District approves operating referendum

The Wheatland J1 School Board on Oct. 27 approved an operating referendum for the 2022 ballot.

The referendum, according to the district, is a renewal of the previous operating referendum for the next four years.

While it represents a reduction from the previous referendum it is needed to continue to operate the school district.

The District is asking for $525,000 for each of the next 4 years (the expiring referendum was $625,000 for 4 years).

Marty McGinley, District administrator at Wheatland, said the referendum looks to maintain educational services and offerings.

“The operating referendum allows us to continue our Flight to Excellence with no additional impact to local taxpayers,” McGinley said. “We have been able to create a culture of improvement and have attracted students from nearly 400 square miles. The Board has done a great job managing the financial impact while adding programs and attracting the best and brightest in our profession.”

When the Board asked the community to approve the last operating referendum, it committed to be good financial stewards and only use the levy authority needed, the district stated in a news release.

In two of the four years, the district did not use their full levy authority granted by the operating referendum, all while reducing the overall tax levy.

In the second year of the operating referendum (2019-20) the District under levied by $210,563 and in the third year (2020-21) the District under levied by $151,258.

The Board made the decision to keep the tax levy flat or reduce it slightly in all four years of the operating referendum.

In those four years the mill rate has also decreased from 8.66 to 6.83.

“This demonstrates the success of the Wheatland District and commitment to the strong stewardship of tax dollars by the Board,” the district said in a news release.

Additionally, in the last four years, the district outlined many financial milestones including creating and supporting a facility improvement fund to plan for future mechanical needs; contributed additional funds to debt service which will reduce interest on the 2018 facility project; building and maintaining a fund balance to eliminate the need for short term borrowing; reduced the amount of the operating referendum from $625,000 for four years to $525,000.

The district, meanwhile, noted most operating referendums have increased in recent years because of inflation.

The district also reduced the overall tax levy in seven of the last eight years.

“In order to continue the commitment to excellence at Wheatland, the Board is seeking a renewal of the operating referendum. While we were able to reduce the overall amount without an additional tax impact on local taxpayers, the outdated state funding formula and artificial revenue limit make this process necessary,” said Chris Serak, Wheatland Board President.

“The referendum asks the local community to continue to support a world class learning environment right here in Wheatland. We are incredibly proud of all that we have been able to accomplish in the past and thankful for the support of the Wheatland community as we plan for the future.”