$194.7 million referendum plan for new high school could be ‘on bubble’ of passage

North Side business owner challenges aspects of proposal to move middle schools to Central, Logan buildings
Picture of School District Of La Crosse logo on the side of a brick building

LA CROSSE (WKBT) — Nearly 60 percent of the respondents to a La Crosse School District survey said they “probably” or “definitely” would support a $194.7 million referendum to build a new high school at the former Trane Co. headquarters on the South Side.

Overall, the survey found that the referendum would be “on the bubble” for possible approval, according to a survey representative, although a North Side business owner raised several bubble-popping challenges to the plan.

Under the plan, the district would move its three middle schools — Lincoln, Logan and Longfellow — to the buildings that now house Central and Logan high schools. The district has not bought the Trane property, although it has an option to do so.

La Crosse School Board members received a report on the survey, which attracted 5,859 responses, during its meeting Monday evening. Nearly 3,000 responses were submitted on paper, while the rest were online.

With a 20.4 percent participation rate, the results have a +/- statistical margin of error of 1.31%, officials said.

According to the results, 34% of parent respondents said they “definitely” support the plan, 22% said “probably” yes, 11% were undecided, 8% noted “probably” no and 25% logged “definitely” no.

District officials combined the “definitely” and “probably” responses to achieve an overall favorability rate of 56%.

Among school staffers, 29% were “definitely” yes; 22% “probably” yes; 11%, undecided; 12% “probably” no, and 22%, “definitely” no.

Among non-parent, non-staff respondents, 24% were “definitely” yes; 22%, “probably” yes; 16% undecided; 10%, “probably” no, and 28%, “definitely” no.

Roughly one-third of staffers and parents responded that they probably would not or definitely would not support the plan.

Factoring in pros and cons of the overall statistics, as well as constituents in each category, the results show that support is “on the bubble” for voter approval, said Bill Foster, founder and president of School Perceptions, a Singer, Wis., company that compiled the survey.

The board took no action on the report, other than to note that they will consider the next steps and possible strategies for pursuing the plan.

If the referendum proceeds and the $194.7 million expenditure is approved, it would increase property taxes by $8 for every $100,000 of property value, according to the district.

After the survey presentation, Karla Doolittle, who described herself as a North Side business owner, questioned the facilities plan, saying it doesn’t include renovation costs for Central and Logan or factor in busing costs to the new school.

Doolittle also expressed confusion, after attending May meetings on the plan, about whether the new school would include a fieldhouse, solar heating and other issues.

“I don’t think the school district has done a good enough job informing people,” she said, adding later, “How much is this really going to cost us as taxpayers?”

The full survey is titled the 2022 La Crosse Community Survey Results Report. 

Recent News Headlines from News 8 Now 

Man accused in La Crosse shooting death of 15-year-old appears in court

Irreparable tennis courts at Myrick Park in La Crosse to be removed

Winona Health diabetes study looking for participants

EXPLAINER: Is Elon Musk’s deal to buy Twitter falling apart?