Only two members of the RUSD board -- Dennis Wiser and Julie McKenna -- expressed interest in meeting with Caledonia residents after the Caledonia group that is working break away from Racine Unified, invited the board to its Feb. 23 meeting. Two other RUSD members -- Sue Kutz and William Van Atta -- said they were disinterested in the process, and the other five "ignored the invitation outright," according to a statement from the Steering Committee.
But Wiser and McKenna have a schedule conflict (an RUSD school board forum at the Golden Rondelle was set up after the CSD invitation was made), so the Caledonia School District Steering Committee will reschedule its meeting with them. The committee will still meet on Feb. 23 to provide information about the creation of the new district at the Caledonia Eastside Community Center, 6156 Douglas Ave., at 7:30 p.m. Petitions for the new district will be available to sign on Saturday, Feb. 21, at the center between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. and on Sunday, Feb. 22, at the Caledonia-Mt. Pleasant Memorial Park, 9700 Northwestern Ave., between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
The Caledonia School District Steering Committee is made up of residents of the Village of Caledonia who are working to create a new school district within the village. Members believe that a new district will benefit Caledonia and surrounding communities. They are circulating petitions throughout the Racine Unified School District to obtain the 9,600 signatures necessary to push the issue to a public referendum. More information about the group can be found at its website.
The steering committee has produced a fact sheet, Why Create a Caledonia School District. Some of its points are below, after the break:
- Local Control: Not a single member of the Racine Unified school board is a resident of Caledonia. With our own district, all of the board members will be from our community and will be accountable to us. No more referendums will be imposed on Caledonia unless we vote for it.
- Property Taxes: Caledonia currently pays 24% of the RUSD tax bill, and yet our students only receive 10% of the spending. With our own school district all of our tax money is spent right here in our community. That means a Caledonia district would be able to continually lower taxes once it is established. RUSD, on the other hand, will be facing large budget deficits in the coming years and will either have to raise taxes or make severe cuts.
- Growth: In order to attract new residents and businesses, we need to provide an excellent public educational system. Caledonia students are already among the best in the state, but they are averaged in with the rest of RUSD. With our own district, our students will receive the recognition they deserve and everyone will see why Caledonia is a great place to live, work and visit.
How will this affect my property taxes? Most of the extra cost for Caledonia is the building of a new high school. New school districts also require start-up costs and are not fully funded by the state of Wisconsin until the 3rd year. The first year’s mill rate will be established at more than if Caledonia had remained with RUSD. After that, the mill rates would decline. The estimated school tax increase for a $100,000 home (with 2% property value growth and no new RUSD referendum) would be $112 the first year, $69 the second and $64 the third.
I want my child to continue in RUSD? Is this possible? Yes, Wisconsin is an Open Enrollment State. This means you can enroll your child in any school district you wish, as long as the district has space. 12th graders have the right to finish at the high school they attended regardless of space.
What happens to the school buildings located within Caledonia? The new Caledonia school district would receive all the schools in Caledonia: Olympia Brown, North Park, Caddy Vista and Gifford School. In addition, a large parcel of land near 5 ½ and Charles would be included in the asset/liability split with RUSD.
How much will a new school district cost Caledonia residents? According to the June 2008 WisTax study, the new Caledonia district would net approximately $44 million after the asset/liability split with RUSD. However, a new high school would be needed. The average cost of a new high school is $65 million; this amount can be bonded over several years.
Who are you and where can I get more information? We are a group of concerned citizens who would like to see Caledonia thrive and continue to attract new residents and businesses. In order for this to happen, we need strong schools and involved citizens that want ownership in their community schools.