Oshkosh school board approves cuts in case referendum fails

Oshkosh Area School District.jpg

The Oshkosh school board approved a list of potential cuts Wednesday. It says the cuts will be necessary if voters don't approve a multi-million dollar April referendum.

Oshkosh schools want voters to allow the district to exceed state-imposed limits by $4 million a year, for seven years. That's $28 million total.

The district estimates the owner of $100,000 home would pay an extra $83 a year in property taxes.

School leaders say the district is facing a $3.4 million budget shortfall next year. They say it's because of drops to state funding.

Oshkosh Schools Superintendent Stan Mack spoke at Wednesday's board meeting saying if the referendum fails, the cuts will be devastating.

"It would be compliant and legal, but would not be providing the preparation necessary for the children coming out of our high schools," he told FOX 11.

The cuts would add up to about $7.4 million. They would include closing a middle school, eliminating middle school electives, and combining the high school football teams.

Mack told us it will negatively affect students and the community.

"Depreciating property values, because no one will want to buy homes here, because a first choice for young families will always be 'how are the schools?'" he said.

However, Jim LeClaire is campaigning against the referendum. He told FOX 11 it's not necessary and neither are the cuts.

LeClaire cites district concerns about a budget shortfall last year, which did not happen.

"They were willing to take their time in 2015, but they're not willing to take their time now, because they had a survey that said they could get this money. So it comes down to spend, spend, spend," he said.

LeClaire and others, like Douglas Hornburg fought a similar referendum in 2014.

"Why two years into a seven year referendum are they threatening the same cuts? Is that saying the other referendum didn't work?" said Hornburg.

During Wednesday's meeting one person spoke against the referendum, saying the district needs to work within its own budget.

Two spoke for it, including the leader of "Vote Yes for Oshkosh Schools." Those in favor said it's a small price to pay for good education.

If the cuts happens they would start next school year.

The district says it has already made $17 million worth of cuts over the last eight years.

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