La Crosse schools referendum fails: Voters say no to new building

LA CROSSE (WKBT) — It was one of the most expensive referendums on the November ballot. La Crosse voters rejected the nearly $195 million school referendum.

La Crosse voters headed to the polls to deliver a blow to the School District of La Crosse.

“It was great to see in numbers what we had been hearing,” said Vote No group representative, Vicki Markussen.

69% of voters rejected the School District of La Crosse’s referendum.

“The community chose not to choose that path. This was really the last opportunity I see, until something radically changes,” said Superintendent Aaron Engel.

The district wanted to consolidate La Crosse’s two high schools into one new building on the former Trane site. Many community members spoke out against the proposal. Markussen says the referendum was rushed.

One of the reasons community members criticized the plan was because they felt there wasn’t enough transparency. The School District says they did everything they could to communicate.

“This isn’t saying no to education, it’s saying no to this plan,” Markussen said.

The school district already made a $300,000 down payment. Engel says its unlikely the district will get a refund.

“The amount of money is relatively small considering the price of the property and the opportunity it presented to the community,” he said.

“One the one hand, they’re telling teachers they can’t pay for raises, and then they pay this money. Optically, this just looks challenging for the school district,” said Markussen.

Engel says although he’s disappointed, the district is looking forward to creating a new plan.

“Regroup, reassess , to think about our path forward. This election has given us new information to work with,” said Engel.

Markussen says she wants the district to include every voice in the community. Marksussen says before a new plan is made, the district will have the regain community trust.

“These are very diverse voices and we need to make sure it’s all incorporated into a new plan,” she said.

In a statement to News 8 Now, the Vote Yes group said while they are also disappointed, they’ll support the district as they “regroup and move forward.”