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StudentsBoardingSchoolBusUPDATE July 5: The Caledonia Village Board will consider a resolution to study creating a separate school district and request that the state change the law to allow Caledonia to separate from the Racine Unified School district.

The two separate resolutions are slated for discussion at the Caledonia Village board meeting at 7 p.m. Monday, July 6 at the East Side Community Center, 6156 Douglas Avenue.

ORIGINAL STORY: An ad hoc committee tasked with recommending what should be included in a feasibility study on forming an independent school district in Caledonia met Monday night for the first time.

The committee voted to recommend that representatives from the taxpayers watchdog group, the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance, explain what would be involved with the feasibility study. But it also recommended that the board accept the contract with the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance, and approve funding it at the village board meeting on July 6.

Several members voiced frustration with some members of the Caledonia Village Board for not approving funding for the $30,000 study after voters had already approved pursuing the study this spring. But village board member and ad hoc committee member Kathy Trentadue said she didn’t approve it because the state law needs to change first to allow the village to vote through a referendum to pull out of the Racine Unified School District.

Trentadue said the village board “would look foolish” for spending $30,000 on a feasibility study if they couldn’t get the law change first. But ad hoc committee member Brian Dey said the Wisconsin Taxpayer Alliance told him that the study would likely not cost $30,000 to update the study. One had been done in 2008, but too much has changed for it to be useful.

“What we’re trying to do now with the state Legislature is simplify that process and thwart the final veto power by the (Racine Unified) School Board… that’s the only thing we’re trying to change because it should be up to the people and not up to the existing bureaucracy,” Dey said.

The five-member committee talked about the need for a new feasibility study because the old study was based on assumptions that are now obsolete: the real estate market crashed, the tax base was affected by that crash, Act 10 law changes were made, and the way some state aids are calculated have changed.

“These are all big changes, which is why any information in the past that we have is no longer valid,” Dey told the committee.

Trentadue argued that the law change still hasn’t happened, but Dey argued that the state Legislators have said that they won’t make the law change without having a feasibility study first.

Ed WIlling pointed out that changing the law would be easier than trying to get RUSD to allow Caledonia to leave the unified school district.

“I don’t feel like playing chicken with them (the state Legislators),” Willing said.

“But we’re going to look awful foolish as a board if we vote to spend another $30,000 investing in this…and it’s a good investment, don’t get me wrong because I am in favor of this,” Trentadue said.

Still, Trentadue argued that she was being asked to invest in something that cannot happen, but Willing pushed back saying that there was a legal way to pursue the change through the school district.

“But the study is just the beginning of that process,” he said.

Former village board member and ad hoc committee member Kathy Burton pointed out that the language Caledonia residents voted on was to pursue forming its own school district. She believes the law should change because it’s “a bad law,” but she also encouraged the rest of the committee to fund the feasibility study so that state Legislators could make the argument to change the law.

“We have to keep moving forward, but with that said… we have done everything that has been asked of us,” Burton said. “Everyone wants guarantees, and yes we don’t know… but that’s why we want the study so that we can get some answers.”

Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.