Frequently Asked Questions
What are the district’s needs?
Although our facilities have been well-maintained over the years, the time has come for us to address a number of urgent needs that require the attention of our entire community. These needs go beyond maintenance and repairs. They will require longer-term investments to ensure our students have access to quality facilities both now and in the years to come.
These needs can be found across our schools. They include updating and expanding elementary classrooms, while creating a new and dedicated physical education space. We have a need to update classrooms to meet the needs of current teaching and learning models, and we aim to establish a space for a full-day prekindergarten program. We look to provide safer pick-up and drop-off areas while improving traffic flow around our buildings.
What would happen if these needs are not addressed now?
If left unaddressed, the space and facilities challenges the Grantsburg School District is facing could threaten the outstanding schools our community members have come to expect.
Some of our buildings lack the shared spaces that allow for collaboration and modern learning opportunities. This places our students at a significant disadvantage throughout their K-12 careers. We believe the time has come to address these needs to ensure our students continue to have access to a high-quality educational experience.
Why do these needs exist? Have the facilities not been well-maintained?
Our maintenance staff has done a terrific job of maintaining our facilities over the years. However, we have reached a point at which longer-term needs must be addressed. These needs go beyond what regular maintenance and repairs can accomplish on their own.
How are the district and board working to engage the community on these issues?
The district has contracted services from Kraus-Anderson to co-facilitate a master facility study and task force. The task force is made up of parents, staff, and community members from throughout our school district community. They have worked to examine the district’s needs, develop a sound solution, and present that solution for the board’s consideration.
After a referendum vote in April 2021 did not pass, the task force analyzed strengths and weaknesses of that proposed solution to come forward with an enhanced recommendation for board action.
The task force has recommended that the board move forward with a referendum that would take place April 5, 2022.
Is the board considering the needs of local taxpayers?
The district and board aim to keep property taxes as low as possible in our community. To that end, the board is committed to finding a solution to the district’s challenges and to do so in a way that protects the integrity of our schools while seeking to find long-term sustainability.
As the board considers various options, we are prioritizing the potential cost and tax impact of each potential solution. The board remains very sensitive to the need for efficiency and reducing costs as much as possible.
Some examples of how the District has worked to help offset the referendum impact to taxpayers are reallocating some funds from the general operating budget and recently submitting a FEMA grant application that would support some of the building costs for the elementary school. Federal COVID-19 relief (ESSER) funds will support the District’s needs to improve heating and cooling (HVAC) and air quality.
Why is now the appropriate time to move forward with addressing these needs?
While district staff have done an outstanding job of providing 21st century opportunities to students in our current facilities, the time has come to make strategic upgrades. The board believes that, as a group of elected officials, it must protect the district’s assets—including our buildings.
Moving forward now would also enable the district to leverage historically low interest rates, reducing the total costs of construction and renovations. Additionally, construction costs are expected to continue to rise in the future, making the need to move forward soon even more important.
Will residents get to vote on the proposed solution to the district's facilities needs?
To date, the Board of Education has not decided to place a referendum question on a future election ballot. However, it is possible that district residents will have the opportunity to vote on a proposed solution in April 2022.
If the referendum is approved, how would the district use the funds?
If approved, the referendum would allow the district to move forward with the following:
Decommissioning of Nelson Primary School
Expanding our existing elementary school
Updating classrooms and common spaces at both the middle and high schools
Repairing building systems and creating a safer traffic flow around each of our schools
I am concerned that the mill rate or my personal property tax is going to experience a significant jump with the planned reassessment of Grantsburg properties. If the referendum passes, will my property taxes increase significantly?
It is important to note that a reassessment of properties does not necessarily lead to higher tax rates. All else constant:
If your assessment increases at the same rate as the average percentage in your municipality, your taxes will remain the same.
If your assessment increases more than the municipality’s average percentage increase, your taxes will likely go up.
If your assessment increases less than the average percentage, your taxes will likely go down.
How much revenue would an approved referendum generate for the district?
If approved, the referendum would provide the district with $19.7 million in additional revenue to address its facility needs.
How would the referendum affect property taxes?
If approved, the referendum would have an estimated property tax impact of $0.85 on every $1,000 of fair market property value in the school district. The owner of a home worth $150,000 would see an estimated tax impact of about $10.62 per month.
Why is this proposed solution more expensive than the last referendum, even though the ask is less this time around?
The enhanced proposal estimated costs includes addressing more needs, adding more square footage, and taking into account the increased costs of materials and labor since the last referendum question appeared on the ballot last year. Additionally, this proposal includes the addition of full-day four-year-old kindergarten.
The district is able to allocate resources from other revenue sources to reduce the overall cost to our taxpayers.
How does Grantsburg’s spending compare to other school districts in our region?
The Grantsburg School District spends significantly less per student than other districts in northwest Wisconsin, while still providing great value to our families.
Below is how our spending compares to the 11 closest districts to Grantsburg:
Shell Lake: $16,196
Turtle Lake: $14,107
Saint Croix Falls: $13,974
Will the district save money by closing Nelson Primary School?
The district will save money on snow plowing, lawn maintenance, and building maintenance if it were to close Nelson Primary. This could save the district approximately $87,000 per year. However, the district will NOT eliminate any employees who were at Nelson. They would all move to Grantsburg Elementary.
What is the estimated return on investment (ROI) or expected ‘payback’ for taxpayers in moving students from Nelson Primary School to the elementary school?
Along with the annual savings to operate the building, the district estimates that addressing the most urgent maintenance needs at Nelson Primary School would cost taxpayers approximately $3 million. To revitalize the building for future educational programming and services (i.e., improved gym/cafeteria space, secured entrance, replace modular building), the projected overall cost, including the $3 million worth of essential maintenance costs, is between $8-$9 million.
We believe our proposed solution to decommission Nelson Primary School and invest in the three remaining buildings represents the best value for Grantsburg taxpayers.
When looking at Nelson Primary School from the highway (or parking lot), the building looks to be in good shape. Why doesn't the district just fix Nelson? How much would it cost to do so?
District staff have done a great job with upkeep of the building. However, we believe the building has outlived its ability to safely, effectively, and efficiently serve the needs of our youngest learners.
The district’s facility study projects an estimated $3 million worth of maintenance priorities for the building. These projected costs do not include the expense of needing additional square footage to remove the portable classroom, addressing basic instructional needs of the facility (such as the gymnasium or spaces for special education services), or creating a functional front office with a secured entrance and nursing area.
We believe that the cost to properly renovate Nelson Primary School outweighs the return on investment it would provide for our community.
What is the grade configuration proposal with the closure of Nelson Primary School?
If the proposal is approved, our grade configurations would be as follows:
Grantsburg Elementary School will serve grades PK-3.
Grantsburg Middle School will serve grades 4-8.
Grantsburg High School will continue to serve grades 9-12.
Why is a new elementary school gym included in the proposal?
The existing elementary school gym does not have adequate square footage for physical education classes. With the proposed closure of Nelson Primary School, the addition of students at the elementary school would create a need for additional physical education instructional space.
The district also will need to have a dedicated space for students to eat lunch, separate from the physical education space.
What will happen to the gym at Grantsburg Elementary School if the FEMA grant is not awarded?
The proposed referendum solution includes funding for the elementary school gym. If the District is awarded the FEMA grant, the funding from the grant will be used to create a larger gym that meets building requirements to serve as a community storm shelter.
With the proposed reconfiguration of classrooms at the middle school, what happens to the iForward classroom spaces?
With the repurposing of iForward spaces into needed flexible and multi-purpose classrooms at the middle school, the iForward offices would be relocated to another location on campus next to the District Office.
What funds would be utilized to address the reconfiguration of classrooms at the middle school?
The District will maximize allowable iForward funds needed to return the iForward office spaces back to classroom spaces to minimize the financial impact on the referendum or general fund.
Is new classroom space really needed at Grantsburg Elementary School?
We anticipate that this is a question for our constituents as the District has experienced a slow declining enrollment over the past 15 years. Today's teaching and learning standards require additional space for young students to properly receive specialized services and experience hands-on learning. Plus, to commit to a full-day Pre-K program, additional classrooms will be needed.
The District's facility study concluded that the elementary school would be short 10-12 classrooms with the shift of students from Nelson Primary School and launch of a full-day Pre-K program.
I thought the district was experiencing declining enrollment. Do we really need more classroom space at Grantsburg Elementary School?
Below is a chart that reflects the Grantsburg School District’s enrollment, as reported at the district’s 2021 Annual Meeting:
In the past 10 years, the district’s enrollment has declined by 69 students. While 69 students is a significant number, it is spread across grade levels. There has not been a decrease in the need for classroom space in our schools.
The Grantsburg School District serves 14 grade levels (4K-12). If we divide the number of students declined over the past 10 years (69) by the number of grade levels served (14), the number of students per grade level served declined by just 4.9 students each. Grantsburg schools serve 3-4 sections of students at each grade level. When considering the total loss of approximately 1 student per section, the impact of the decline on needed classroom space is minimal.
Additionally, the district experienced an increase of 23 students from 2020-21 to 2021-22. The referendum proposal would replace Nelson Primary School’s square footage (8 classrooms, OT/PT space, and cafeteria/gym) and add 2-3 classrooms for the future anticipated expansion of full-day, four-year-old kindergarten at the elementary school.
What is proposed for the front of the Grantsburg High School?
The proposal includes creating a secured and safe entrance for our students, staff, and community. The addition will have a controlled entry point where visitors are buzzed into the new office area, then buzzed into the building once proper identification is provided.
What is the district’s plan to address the loss of playground space with proposed additions?
There are some referendum dollars in the proposed budget to address playground needs for all students.
I am not sure the conceptual site plan presented as a solution is the best design. How can I provide feedback to improve it?
The conceptual site plan has been developed based on the district’s needs and the estimated costs of addressing those needs. The district will not invest funds into the actual design of the proposed solution until the community approves a referendum.
District residents may offer feedback on the design process through ongoing engagement with the district if voters approve the referendum April 5.
What happens if the project goes over budget?
The project cannot go over budget. Any referendum the community approves would be limited to the amount proposed. As such, the project team will ensure competitive bids come in under budget.
However, if bids come in higher than expected, the project team will conduct the appropriate value engineering to get the project back on budget. Please note that the referendum does include an industry-standard contingency to help protect the district from unexpected costs.
How can I be certain that inflation costs for supplies and materials will not cause the project to go over budget?
Per state law, this project cannot go over budget. Any referendum the community approves is limited to the amount proposed. As such, the project team will ensure competitive bids come in under budget.
If bids come in higher than expected, the project team will conduct the appropriate value engineering to get the project back on budget. Please note that the referendum does include an industry-standard contingency to help protect the district from unexpected costs.
The Grantsburg School District hired Kraus-Anderson (KA) as the construction manager early in the process to help forecast construction costs and associated inflation. KA builds dozens of schools per year and has a team of estimators whose job is to forecast construction costs. The firm uses software that tracks current construction costs across the Midwest, and then adds a multiplier to deal with inflation.
KA also remains in close contact with vendors (e.g., steel, precast, masonry, mechanical, and electrical) to get a pulse on the economy and what is happening with material and labor costs. Inflation has been included in our referendum budget and the team is comfortable with our budget forecasts.
How many years will district resident taxpayers be paying off this bond?
State statutes allow a school district to amortize debt over a maximum of 20 years. The payback period of the proposed referendum is based on what Wisconsin state statutes allow.
It is possible for the Grantsburg School District to split the borrowing in two, with the second borrowing done in 2023. This would make the loan 21 years in total. If interest rates allow, the district could end up amortizing the loan(s) over a shorter period.
It’s worth noting that the district’s proposed referendum solution to address facility needs across all of the buildings would enable the district to leverage the buildings for many more decades to come.
What impact does the decision to enhance the jail have on the mill rate?
The District learned from Burnett County that a $30 million jail project is approved. With this new debt issued, taxpayers should expect a $0.60 increase per $1,000 of property value or $60 per $100,000 property value.
Future property values will determine the final impact on mill rates. In 2024, existing/old debt will fall off. Additionally, county debt may be paid off early.
What is the maximum capacity of our current school classrooms (not including Nelson Primary School)? What is our current enrollment?
The Grantsburg School District is committed to maintaining current student-to-teacher ratios. Grantsburg Elementary School (GES) and Nelson (K-3) are Achievement Gap Reduction (AGR) schools, and we are committed to a maximum 18:1 student-to-teacher ratio in grades K-3.
Current enrollment for the district 1,845. There are 842 students in the brick-and-mortar schools, according to the second Friday count in January 2022. The capacity of a classroom is determined by the student-to-teacher ratio, as determined by the administration and Board of Education, along with recommendations from state guidelines (see AGR above).
One may argue we could remove all of the furniture (tables, cabinets, educational materials like classroom libraries, small group learning area) and put 25 students in a classroom with 25 individual desks. However, experience and research have shown this is not the best for student learning, nor a teacher’s productivity. More information about historical enrollment can be found in the annual meeting booklet at https://www.gk12.net/page/3561.
When was the auditorium remodeled and how was it paid for?
In some school years, school districts have dollars available called “assigned and committed funds.” This is savings from the prior year of funds not spent due to low gas prices, savings on utilities, etc. The funds help pay for general maintenance or minor remodels.
In 2016-17, the Grantsburg Board of Education decided to upgrade components in the auditorium—such as lighting, finishes, and seats—that were greatly needed. The total cost of that remodel was $136,879.
How does the proposed referendum address student drop-off and pick-up safety concerns in front of the schools?
One of our top priorities is the safety of our students and staff. To that end, we believe it important to create separation between the family and bus drop-off and pick-up zones. The proposed referendum solution allocates a significant amount of funds to improve each of the school sites on campus.
If the referendum passes successfully, the district will engage a professional civil/traffic engineer to review our current situation and design a traffic plan that works for all of our schools. Additionally, we will seek input from building users and administration throughout the design process.
Where can one obtain a copy of the proposed referendum?
The district is hosting all information related to the referendum on our website, at referendum.gk12.net. Additionally, as the district responds to community member questions, questions and responses are included in a FAQ section on the referendum webpage.
Currently, the village has $20k from the March 2020 CARES Act. Why wasn’t this money used to fix immediate school repairs and save items from having to be addressed with a referendum?
The CARES Act funds allotted to municipalities and schools are in separate buckets of funding. The village is obligated to use those funds within the federal government guidelines set for municipalities.
The school district was granted ESSER funds to repair and/or replace older mechanical units, as needed, to improve items like indoor air quality. These funds need to be used for improving air quality or improving the safety for staff and students and cannot be used for new construction. The district will use ESSER funds on allowable maintenance projects.
By using these funds and other cost-savings measures, the district was able to lower the cost of the referendum ask from $21.5 million to $19.7 million.
If Nelson Primary School is being decommissioned and the elementary school is having to house more students, why are repairs necessary for the middle school and high school? Why does the parking lot have to be adjusted? Couldn’t the repairs for these two items be budgeted elsewhere and lower the total amount being requested?
The needs at the middle school, high school, and parking lot are connected to improving the safety of students, staff, and guests. The district's proposed referendum solution addresses facility needs at all of our school buildings.
Facility needs at the middle school include repurposing relocated iForward office space back into needed classroom spaces for flexible and multi-purpose use, addressing water drainage and parking lot issues that have become a safety concern, and making updates to building systems that are beginning to show signs of failure.
Facility needs at the high school include a secured entrance, addressing water drainage issues, remodeling the high school commons/cafeteria/community space, ensuring accessible high school locker rooms and restrooms, and making repairs/updates to building systems that are beginning to show signs of failure.
These are items that were identified by a community task force as being priority needs and, as such, are included in the referendum.
The district believes an investment now in these facility needs will enable the district to continue providing a high-quality educational experience for Grantsburg families for many years to come.
What happens if the referendum is not approved by voters?
If voters do not approve the referendum, the district and board would immediately begin work to gather community feedback and determine why it was not supported. Regardless, the needs would not go away and addressing them will only get more expensive in the future.
When is election day?
The referendum question will appear on a special election ballot Tuesday, April 5, 2022.
Where can I vote?
District residents may vote at their regular polling location on Tuesday, April 5. You can find voting and registration information at https://myvote.wi.gov/.
Can I vote early?
Registered voters in Wisconsin may vote early by mail by requesting an absentee ballot. You can make your request by visiting https://myvote.wi.gov/en-us/Vote-Absentee-By-Mail.
Residents may also vote in-person before election day. For more information on this option, please visit https://myvote.wi.gov/en-us/Vote-Absentee-In-Person.
What is the exact question that will appear on the ballot?
Voters will see the following question on their ballots Tuesday, April 5:
Shall the School District of Grantsburg, Burnett and Polk Counties, Wisconsin be authorized to issue pursuant to Chapter 67 of the Wisconsin Statutes, general obligation bonds in an amount not to exceed $19,700,000 for the public purpose of paying the cost of a school facility improvement project consisting of: construction of additions for academic areas and a multipurpose gymnasium and renovations at the Elementary School; renovations at the Middle School; construction of a secure entrance and renovations at the High School; district-wide safety, site, traffic and building infrastructure improvements; removal of Nelson Primary School; and acquisition of furnishings, fixtures and equipment?