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West Bend

West Bend School Board delays referendum

August 20, 2018 – West Bend, WI – During a special meeting Monday night of the West Bend School Board (WBSB) a decision was made to delay moving forward on a referendum. Board members determined time ran out to educate the public. Board president Joel Ongert began the meeting with discussion about putting a question on the ballot in November.


“We have until next Tuesday to tell the county clerk what our intentions are,” he said.  “Are we going to a referendum in November and potential questions and how do we want it to look.”


Board member Chris Zwygart spoke first and set the tone for the rest of the meeting.  “I’m not sure we’re ready to move forward. The board has a number questions,” said Zwygart.

Board member Ken Schmidt said he had doubts. “I question need and want,” said Schmidt.  “Those are two questions I have. Some things I see as needs with safety and that is a big need but here again I really have some questions about right sizing. Those are the two biggies.”


Schmidt also expressed concern about the cost to taxpayers in the future. “There’s no guarantee with a phenomenal economy. I’m a realist and there are cycles. I’ve seen several in my lifetime but I have sincere reservations.”








The WBSB had been considering a $50 million referendum for Jackson Elementary School and West Bend High School. With taxes and interest a representative from Baird said that would grow to over $85 million.

Taking a look at the current referendums the West Bend School District is currently paying off….

In April 2009, voters in West Bend approved a $29.3 million plan to renovate, as well as build an addition to Badger Middle School.

In November 2012 the West Bend School District passed a $22.8 million referendum to close Barton Elementary School, expand Silverbrook School and add classrooms and a gym at Green Tree Elementary School. The actual total cost of the referendum with taxes and interest was $31.975 million with a 15-year payback on borrowing.

After the Nov. 2012 referendum passed the $31.9 million total was added on top of the $29.3 million payment for the 2009 Badger referendum = $60.2 million.

The target date to completely pay off the debt on both referendums is 2028.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, former school board member Randy Marquardt spoke against moving ahead with the referendum.


The board was discussing whether to ask for one question or two on the ballot and after 40 minutes determined to not move forward with the plan at this time.


Board president Joel Ongert refused comment after the meeting.


A couple of leaders from the West Bend School Board spoke after about the decision.


After the meeting board member Zwygart said as a person, “We have unanswered questions and limited time between now and the time of the election (Nov. 6, 2018) that just does not set us up for success as it relates to transparency with the voters and so I’m pleased with the decision.”


Board member Ken Schmidt, speaking as a person, said he was pleased with the decision to postpone the referendum. “I’m certainly in favor of delaying it. My only concern is if it’s moved to next spring or a special election in the fall the community may not be quite as attentive or interested,” he said.


Board members Nancy Justman and Tonnie Schmidt were not in attendance Monday night.

More details will will be posted shortly as this is a developing story.




Tommy Schwai


  1. So what I’m hearing is that the school board has received enough negative feedback that they don’t want to risk putting the referendum to a vote during a national election with a heavy turnout, but would rather stall and slip it into an obscure April primary, with light turnout, so that a strong showing by supporters could pass it with a relative handful of votes.

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