The Mount Pleasant Village Board Monday failed to approve funding a study about the feasibility of organizing a school district independent of Racine Unified.
With a 4-3 vote, trustees did not reach the two-thirds majority needed to approve the study. Village ordinance requires a 5-2 vote to approve budget amendments, and because the school district study was not included in the 2016 budget, paying for it would require an amendment, triggering the two-thirds rule.
Anna Marie Clausen, David DeGroot, Gary Feest and Sonny Havn voted to spend $15,000 for Mount Pleasant’s portion of the $45,000 study from the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance. John Hewitt, Rick McCluskey and President Jerry Garski voted no.
Caledonia and Sturtevant have both approved their respective $15,000 expenditures for the joint study. What those villages will do in light of the vote in Mount Pleasant vote remains to be seen.
Before the board started discussing the issue, Village Administrator Kurt Wahlen said that staff was recommending the spend despite voters approving by wide margins in November 2014 the $128 million Racine Unified referendum.
“The study answers questions of tax rates, enrollment numbers and whether or not separating from Racine Unified is fiscally possible,” he said.
McCluskey disagreed, saying he would vote no because he felt to do otherwise would be slap in the face to residents who voted for the referendum last fall.
Resident Kelly Gallaher during public comment asked trustees to place the question on the spring ballot so the board could know whether or not residents even want the study. Voters in both Caledonia and Sturtevant approved exploring an independent school district.
DeGroot served with Feest on the ad hoc committee charged with determining the scale and scope of the study, and he said the study gives the village “the rare opportunity to look into the structure and finances of Racine Unified.
“This should be a no-brainer because if we don’t approve this, Racine Unified will never change the way it operates,” he said. “This $15,000 gets us the answers we’ve been looking for.”
Two representatives each from Caledonia and Sturtevant were also on the committee.
In the end, though, the 4-3 vote to approve the $15,000 spend wasn’t enough to move the matter forward.
We will update this story about next steps for Caledonia and Sturtevant.