UPDATE: Menomonie School Board votes to go to referendum - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

UPDATE: Menomonie School Board votes to go to referendum

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Menomonie (WQOW) - An area school board votes to go to referendum this spring. Monday night, the Menomonie School Board voted to include two referenda questions on the April ballot.

The first question would be for $25 million.  It would address maintenance needs at every school. It would keep Downsville elementary open, and allow for $900,000 in maintenance there.  Security needs at River Heights and Menomonie High School would also be addressed.  The school entrances would be moved to make them more secure.

The second question would be for $11 million to make renovations to the high school, which would include the gym.

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Menomonie (WQOW) - An area school board is thinking referendum, but what's included? 

That's still up in the air. Monday night, the Menomonie School Board held a special meeting to discuss how to pay for repairs and make upgrades.

A study identified about $60 to 72 million dollars in improvements that are needed district wide. But don't expect the board to pursue that.  1500 residents filled out a survey and most were in support of a smaller figure, around $17 million, to address just maintenance needs.  The board is considering a referendum closer to that figure.

The Menomonie school board decided to take a closer look at how to make improvements with three different price tags: $19 million, $25 million or $33 million dollars.  $19 million would cover basic needs, like roof replacements, repairs and plumbing and electrical upgrades at all schools. The next two figures would add in more projects, like fixing the gym at the high school and possibly adding another wing onto River Heights Elementary. That wing could accommodate Downsville Elementary students, if the school were to close, something parents we talked to are not on board with.

"Our Downsville school has done really well academically across Menomonie, Eau Claire, Chippewa districts we're ranked one of the highest, so we attribute that to our small classrooms," says Dave Arndt, a Downsville parent.

"Closing Downsville right now is not part of any of those proposals," says Menomonie Superintendent Chris Stratton

But that could change in the future. The single-section school is in need of repairs.

"It happens to be the oldest building in the district, so even with maintenance needs being met over the next one to ten years, it will not necessarily totally solve everything that that building needs 30-50 years into the future, so at some point, the board of education will make decisions regarding the future of all of our facilities, not just Downsville," says Stratton.

The board is hesitant to go above $35 million because that would raise property taxes more than $100 on a $100,000 home.

"I believe the board is all on board to move forward with something, our facility needs are not going to go away," Stratton says.

The district administrator will figure out which projects can be fixed for each dollar figure. The board will choose one of the three options at its board meeting on Monday.

Once it's approved, the referendum could end up on the April ballot.

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