Maintaining our positive academic momentum

MMSD estimates that the current state funding model for public education will lead to $30M in budget cuts over the next 3 years.

The increased budget we are asking the community to consider is designed to continue the community investment passed in the 2016 operating referendum by allowing us to increase property taxing authority above the state limit. Without this additional budget, we estimate that we will have a $10M budget gap next year, or $30M over the next 3 years. This deficit is too big to protect cuts from the classroom. We would need to reduce the number of MMSD teachers and student programs.

An operating referendum would allow us to continue the services and supports we are currently providing students without having to cut large numbers of staff, increase class sizes, and make deeper and more disruptive cuts in coming years. The funds would be built into our budget each year and used to fund things like:

  • Continuing and expanding strategies that have begun to narrow achievement gaps in line with the Strategic Framework
  • Avoiding reductions in our staff and teaching workforce
  • Hiring and retaining the very best teachers, with a focus on diversifying our workforce
  • Strengthening investments inline with the Strategic Framework, such as supporting the Black Excellence Coalition Fund, Grow Your Own diversity hiring strategies, and increasing opportunities for youth of color and women like the Early College STEM Academy.

Local resources would help stabilize the budget and maintain academic momentum while continuing disciplined budget process.

Operational Referendum

Estimated cost

The district considers three major factors to determine impact on taxpayers. First, MMSD expects minimal enrollment growth over the next four years, which helps to minimize increases in the tax levy. Second, moderate to strong tax base growth estimates diffuse the impact on existing taxpayers. Third, the district already predicts the maximum loss of State aid each year. Therefore, any increased spending in the district would not increase the loss of State aid. While strong real estate values, including new construction activity, will expand the tax base and help offset the tax impact for existing property owners, the property values in Madison are also increasing.  No matter the MMSD property tax rate, rising property values would cause taxes to increase.

In fall 2020, the school board put forth an operating referendum model for the community to consider that would allow the board  to exceed the revenue limit, with $8 million beginning in the 2020-21 school year; an additional $8 million beginning in the 2021-22 school year (for a total of $16 million); an additional $10 million beginning in the 2022-23 school year (for a total of $26 million); and an additional $10 million in 2023-24 school year (for a total of $36 million) and thereafter. The average impact on homeowner was $87 per year which is an incremental $87 increase over 4 years. 

In January 2020, after gathering input and receiving a detailed report on community feedback, the board indicated a desire to explore what it might look like to decrease the operating referendum. 

Three alternative models were presented in March 2020 for consideration, and the Board agreed to consider a model that would give the school board increased taxing authority in each of the next four years that would be permanent after those four years. In year one, it would add $6 million of taxing authority, with $8 million in year two, $9 million in year three and $10 million in year four, adding up to the $33 million, a $3 million decrease from the original model presented to the community. This model brings the average impact on homeowners down to an $80/year incremental increase over 4 years.