West Bend School Board accused of violating policy in final $74 million total referendum push

March 25, 2019 – West Bend, WI – A formal complaint is expected to be filed today against the West Bend School Board in connection with knowingly violating policy on a campaign mailer.

During a regular meeting this past January 14, 2019 the School Board discussed putting a referendum on the April 2 Spring Nonpartisan Election ballot. Board member Ken Schmidt questioned the level of transparency the district would provide taxpayers. Cited was Policy 615 which stated the total referendum amount with interest would have to be placed on all mailers, marketing material, and discussed at informational meetings.

“In my opinion it should be plastered on our website, anything our construction firm puts out mailer wise, … yes, absolutely it should be shared just like we’re talking about it now,” said board president Joel Ongert. “Very publicly, there’s nothing to hide here. You borrow money, you’re going to pay interest on it. Like the attorney said, the interest is borne by the taxpayer it’s just not going to be on the question.”

During the meeting board member Chris Zwygart quoted Policy 615. (see copy of policy below)



“And to answer Mr. Schmidt’s question, ‘If the proposal is adopted by the board any additional communications, mail materials, postings, communication to the media, presentations at board meetings, other meetings in the community need to disclose those items as well.’ So it does appear to be an information proposal requirement,” said Zwygart.

Apparently a mailer distributed throughout the West Bend School District on Friday, March 22, 2019 failed to disclose the $74 million referendum total as required in Policy 615.

In the past Andy Sarnow, the new finance director in the West Bend School District, did explain the facts regarding the total $74 million referendum proposal. In the video below Sarnow also explains the grand total of nearly $106 million in debt if the April 2 referendum is passed.

Sarnow calculated the remaining $32 million to $33 million in debt and interest from the Badger and Silverbrook referendums and he adds the proposed $74 million total from the April 2 referendum on top of that. Sarnow said taxpayers are expected to pay off the referendum debt and interest in 2038.



According to the district $32 million (Badger and Silverbrook) + $74 million (April 2 referendum) is about $106 million referendum total to be paid off should the April 2 referendum pass.


Emails have been placed to board president Ongert and board members Tiffany Larson, Kurt Rebholz, Chris Zwygart, and Ken Schmidt.

Zwygart did respond via email and indicated he would have more information on Monday, March 25.

Ongert responded via district email and said he was on spring break and stated, “Leave me alone.”

Policy 615


History on current referendums in West Bend School District

Taking a look at the current referendums the West Bend School District is 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.

According to Baird “As of January 14, 2019 the District has principal debt outstanding” including $29,420,000 from Fund 39 referendum and Fund 38 non-referendum approved debt of $5,011,000.

The target date to completely pay off the debt and interest on current referendums is 2028.

The April 2 referendum would extend over 19 years to be paid off in 2038.


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