Successful referendum keeps White Lake School District open--at least for nowSubmitted: 04/16/2015
Story By Karolina Buczek

Successful referendum keeps White Lake School District open--at least for now
WHITE LAKE - Many rural Northwoods schools depend on referendums to stay open. The White Lake School District tried to pass two referendums in 2014. Both failed, and the school came very close to closing its doors.

But last week, voters in White Lake agreed to a $300,000 annual tax increase over the next five years to keep the district up and running.

"It will allow us to facilitate a spending plan over the next five years," says district superintendent Bill Fisher. "We'll still need to be conservative, but it will allow us to offer the current programming."

The tax increase will allow the district to pay its teachers and fund its programs for the next five years, but nothing is guaranteed beyond that point. Unless more students enroll or the state changes its school funding formula, Fisher expects the district to be in the same situation again five years from now.

Currently, the district only receives money from the state for each student enrolled at the school. Since the school doesn't have many students, it doesn't get a lot of funding. But the problem is, the district's operating costs are the same no matter how many students are enrolled.

"Our operating cost to heat a building for 15 kids, if I use that as an example, is the same as if we had 30," says Fisher.

The referendum voters passed last week will help the school keep its educational and extracurricular activities for the next five years. But the district will still need to be frugal during that time.

"During that time, we're going to have to continue to look at ways to reduce our expenses," says Fisher.

The district plans to ask the state government to change the way it distributes funding to rural schools.

"Given the fact that we've needed an operating referendum in order to operate since 2001, one could guess that we're going to continue to need ask voters for permission to exceed the revenue limit," says Fisher.

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