Editor's note: This story is part of a series looking back at some of the biggest stories of 2018. Find the rest of the series here: Top Ten 2018
Over the last several months, the future facility plans for the Somerset and New Richmond school districts has become clearer.
Somerset is hoping voters will approve an operational referendum to cover a roughly $450,000 budget shortfall, while also looking to get a capital referendum passed to update district buildings. New Richmond, on the other hand, is looking to update its athletic facilities and move its football stadium to the high school, which would allow for more sports to take place on school grounds even after the sun goes down.
The biggest question in front of Somerset residents is whether or not they would approve a $1 million operational referendum to cover the district's budget shortfall and any similar shortfalls in the coming years.
Overall, 68 percent of respondents said that they would support a $1 million operational referendum to maintain current programs and services.
When the respondents of the district's referendum survey were asked whether they would support the base option of the district's capital referendum - which would include security, maintenance and site improvements at a cost of $28.6 million - School Perceptions found that 64 percent of respondents would support the base plan, with 24 percent answering no and 12 percent undecided. The survey results were presented at the Dec. 17 school board meeting.
After doing some calculations to look deeper into the data, School Perceptions Project Manager and Strategic Communications Specialist Sue Peterson said the percentage of voters who would support the base option would come to about 50.25 percent. If the one-third of undecided votes were to change their vote to yes, that number would increase to 54.25 percent.
When asked about the other options for the capital referendum, respondents were less inclined to give their support. When it came to the all-in option that was presented in the survey, 50 percent of all residents said yes, while 37 percent said no. However, a total of 64 percent of the non-parent (non-staff) respondents - which make up 75 percent of voters at the poll, according to Peterson - said they would not support the all-in capital referendum.
For more information on the referendum survey, visit somerset.k12.wi.us and click on the "Community Survey Results" link on the homepage.
New Richmond School District is hoping local business and community members can help raise enough money to build a new stadium at the high school, which would include a synthetic field, public plaza, bleachers, concessions, restrooms, team rooms, press box and score board. The school district will fund approximately $1.6 million - which will fund phase two of the project, the artificial turf field - of the $4.3 million total cost. A community capital campaign effort will soon be underway to raise the final $2.7 million.
The stadium has been a topic at several recent school board meetings, and following a presentation of the final stadium project document at the Nov. 19 regular meeting, the board approved $900,000 (10-year note) in borrowing to help finance a portion of the project. To save money the borrowing was included in this bond refinancing process. The other $700,000 of the district's portion will come from district funds.
Stadium data tracking of the current football stadium's use over the past four years outlines average attendance at Friday night varsity football games at 1,692 patrons per game. The stadium's capacity is roughly 1,287, with 810 seats for home fans and another 477 for visiting fans. Home attendance has seen highs upwards of 2,700 fans in recent years.
In the spring of 2019, the WIAA will be voting on a football only conference realignment proposal that will move New
Richmond into the Big Rivers Conference with Eau Claire schools, Hudson, Chippewa Falls, River Falls and Menomonie. This new conference alignment is planned to begin at the start of the 2020 season.
According to District Administrator Patrick Olson, the stadium project will be split into four phases:
• Phase 1 - stadium lighting: In 2017, the New Richmond High School Stadium was outfitted with lighting at the cost of $195,000.
• Phase 2 - field turf ($1.6 million): This multi-use surface is needed due to the volume of activity that this space will generate. Completion of this phase would be for the fall of 2019.
• Phase 3 - required stadium amenities ($1.7 million): The current stadium lacks in parking, bleacher seating capacity, concessions and restrooms. Planned completion of this phase would be fall of 2020 and determined by capital campaign funds.
• Phase 4 - scoreboard and team rooms ($1 million): These two items are not necessities to play games but will be phased in as capital campaign funding allows. Completion date of this phase will be determined by funding.
The capital campaign will include different pledge levels, from $200,000 and greater - which would include naming rights for the life of the structure, as well as being recognized on a "Recognition Wall" - down to $300, which will purchase a bleacher seat and include either the donor's name on the seat or on the "Recognition Wall."
For more information on the capital campaign or the project as a whole, contact capital campaign chair Chris Trosen at 715-240-4345 or firstname.lastname@example.org; or contact Olson at 715-243-7413 or email@example.com. The district is also working on setting up a link with all the current information about the stadium and capital campaign at newrichmond.k12.wi.us.