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Voters OK more than $500M in school construction projects

Voters approved more than $500 million worth of new construction projects in school districts around the state in a series of referendums on Tuesday.

The largest single proposal to pass in Wisconsin on Tuesday sought approval for $65 million worth of building projects at the Chippewa Falls Area School District, including $21.1 million for a new elementary school. Voters there rejected a pair of requests totaling $160 million in November 2016.

“This is a great day for students in our community and our school district,” said Chippewa Falls Area School District Superintendent Heidi Eliopoulos in a statement. “The next step moving forward is that we will begin the design phase of our project.”

In all, there were 46 referendums seeking approval for building projects. Of those, 36 referendums passed in districts throughout the state, winning approval for $503.5 million worth of work. That tally does not include 20 school districts that had referendums on Tuesday solely seeking permission to increase their operating expenditures, which do not pay for construction projects.

The 10 construction referendums that failed sought permission for $100 million worth of work. Biggest among them was one calling for nearly $30 million to be spent in Peshtigo on a new middle and high school.

Meanwhile, a $26.8 million referendum in Rock County could be headed for a recount after it failed by just two votes.

The Beloit Turner School District asked voters for permission to borrow money needed for a new elementary school and improvements at a high school. But voters rejected the plan by a razor-thin margin. Local officials will meet this week to certify the vote, and a recount could follow.

In all, 66 school districts around the state asked taxpayers for permission for $667.2 million worth of new projects and spending.

That’s less than half of what Wisconsin schools had asked taxpayers to chip in for in November 2016.

In that election, school districts were asked for a total of $1.3 billion in building projects and operating costs — likely the largest such request ever. In the previous election, in April 2016, school districts asked for $853.2 million, the second-largest amount, according to data from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.

About Nate Beck, [email protected]

Nate Beck is The Daily Reporter's construction staff writer. He can be reached at (414) 225-1814 (office) or 414-388-5635 (mobile).

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