Racine Unified School District voters returned three School Board members and resoundingly rejected $128.5 million in referendum spending Tuesday.
Pastor Melvin Hargrove, Dennis Wiser and Pamala Handrow were all re-elected to three-year terms on the School Board. They outpolled challengers Patrick Flynn and Roger Pfost.
All three school board referendum questions were rejected by wide margins. District officials had hoped that voters would approve referendum questions, which would have created smaller class sizes in 10 elementary schools and paid for staff and programming.
The unofficial referendum outcomes were:
- Question 1—an $83.5 million bond issue to construct five new schools and remodel five other buildings (20,622 no, 12,702 yes.)
- Question 2—increase spending by $35 million over seven years to pay for additional teachers and continue some existing programming (20,556 no, 12,567 yes.)
- Question 3—add $1 million annually for 10 years to the district’s reserve fund (20,033 no, 11,729 yes.)
The defeat of the three referendum questions means that RUSD administrators will have to overcome a $7.5 million deficit in the 2011-12 budget, said Superintendent Dr. Jim Shaw. The shortfall would have been about $3.5 million if the referendum had been approved.
Shaw said district officials will continue with ongoing plans to address student achievement, but the vote outcome “just makes it harder.”
“It’s going to be more difficult to keep it (budget cuts) away from the classroom now. It’s a big number we’re dealing with,” added David Hazen, RUSD’s chief financial officer.
Voter response was uniform throughout the district. Voters in the Village of Wind Point and the City of Racine, which have supported the vast majority of RUSD referenda since 2000, overwhelmingly turned down this year’s questions.
Slightly more than 68,000 votes were cast in the school elections—well above the 49,605 votes in the 2008 RUSD election when voters approved a $16.5 million facilities maintenance referendum.