Here comes yet another school referendum issue. Those who are for this tax increase will ‘cherry pick’ facts to support their standpoint. So will the other side. Bob Wright’s letter to The Sun urged, “Inform yourself on this school referendum.”  So I went looking.

Samuel McChord Crothers pined, “The trouble with facts is that there are so many of them.” The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction Data Warehouse was a start. It brought to mind the warehouse at the end of the movie ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ – everything was there but tough to find. So were U.S. Department of Labor statistics. The Western Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission data was a little better. Few lookers have the time for this. Here is some of what I found:

Mr. Wright incorrectly states, “…the state has made major cuts in aid in the last eight years….” In fact, Wisconsin sent us $6,080 per student in 2010, and the contribution grew steadily to $6,814 in 2017. We annually receive more state aid than does the average school district. On the other hand, he is correct in saying that costs per student are lower than the Wisconsin average. Even so, Osceola per capita incomes are smaller than the state average. Our cost of living offsets low earnings. 

Still, voting down this referendum might not be wise. There are ‘continuous improvement’ and cost efficiency considerations. Furthermore, the data sources look at what economists call ‘variable costs.’ These vary with the levels of production activity -- in this case, the number of students. There are also ‘fixed costs.’ These include buildings, such costs that vary only marginally with school enrollment levels. Many criticized Osceola over-building during the last referendum hearings. To a layperson, our facilities structures seem well maintained, but roofs, HVAC, and structure loadings might be wanting. The winter 2019 Chieftain News referendum article barely mentions these. I am waiting for the March hearings before deciding.

Email to get a spreadsheet with research findings.

Doug Wellumson


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