Election 2013: 'Mixed feelings'

Southern Door referendum fails; others pass

Apr. 3, 2013
Door County Clerk Jill Lau reviews the election numbers as they come in Tuesday night. Ramelle Bintz/Door County Advocate
Door County Clerk Jill Lau reviews the election numbers as they come in Tuesday night. Ramelle Bintz/Door County Advocate
Door County Treasurer Jay Zahn, left, and Sevastopol Superintendent Linda Underwood wait out the results of the spring election Tuesday night at the County Clerk's office. Ramelle Bintz/Door County Advocate
Jamie Claflin turns in her electronic ballot to election inspectors Lori Jorgensen and Ken Lehmann on Tuesday at the Forestville Village Hall. / Tina M. Gohr/Door County Advocate


Southern Door School District voters said “no” Tuesday, rejecting a referendum question to exceed state-imposed revenue limits by a margin of nearly 60 percent to 40 percent.

But voters in the Sturgeon Bay, Sevastopol and Washington Island school districts all said “yes” to referendum questions posed to coincide with the spring general election.

Door County voters followed the statewide trends in supporting state Supreme Court Justice Pat Roggensack and Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers, who each were re-elected.

This is the second time Southern Door has asked its constituents to allow it to exceed the state imposed revenue cap. In 2011 the district asked its taxpayers to approve a two-year, nonrecurring revenue-cap override for $400,000 for the 2011-12 school year and $850,000 for 2012-13. It failed 1,586 to 1,079.

This time the district asked for an additional $700,000 for the 2013-14 school year, $1.07 million for 2014-15 and $1.31 million for 2015-16. It was voted down 1,503 to 1,031.

“I think the community has spoken and the board is going to have some hard decisions ahead as far as what programs and services” will no longer be available, Superintendent Patti Vickman said.

The district will now have to figure out how to fill a $700,000 deficit for the 2013-14 school year.

“The referendum was not about increasing expenses; it was about filling the gap left by the funding formula,” Vickman said.

The board is planning to hold a special meeting Monday to speak with energy consultants.

“I will be recommending that they need to be addressing the deficit that we have in front of us and how we are going to handle it,” Vickman said.

An emailed statement from outgoing Southern Door School Board president Dustin Miller echoed Vickman.

“It is obvious by the results that people feel we need to work within our budget,” Miller wrote. “This vote was not a vote against education, our students or our staff. Many people have seen cutbacks or the need to make adjustments in their personal situations. The results suggest that we as a school need to do the same. The school board and administration will get to work immediately making the necessary adjustments so that we will still deliver quality education at Southern Door.”


Door County superintendents and school board members came out in support of Southern Door.

“That really hurts ... they deserved the yes vote,” Washington Island Superintendent Tim Raymond said.

“Mixed feelings. So happy for (us) at Sevastopol, so very appreciative for our community. So disappointed for Southern Door; they'll have a hard road ahead,” Sevastopol School Board member Lisa Bieri posted on Facebook after the Door County Advocate posted the results.

Sturgeon Bay

Voters in the Sturgeon Bay School District passed a three-year referendum to exceed the revenue limit with 63 percent saying yes to authorizing $1 million for the 2013-14 school year, $1.3 million the next year and $1.6 million for the 2015-16 school year. The current mill rate for the 2012-13 school year is $10.93. The projected mill rates for the next three years are expected to be $10.33, $10.43 and $10.97 respectively.

Superintendent Joe Stutting credited having a solid school board, dedicated citizen core group and well-educated public for the success.

“I’d like to thank the people in our district for the support so we can continue on the next three years with a budget we can handle and at the same time look out for the taxpayers,” Stutting said.

But Stutting also said something needs to happen on the state level to support schools more fairly so referendums are not needed. He plans to attend a hearing on Monday to testify about improving school funding.

“We shouldn’t be in a position for there to be ‘have and have-not’ schools,” he said.

More conservative rural communities such as Southern Door and Denmark commonly have more difficulty passing referendums, putting those districts at a disadvantage, Stutting said.


The Sevastopol School District taxpayers approved, 979 to 387, a three-year nonrecurring revenue-cap override of $1.15 million for the 2013-14 school year, $1.35 million for the 2014-15 school year and $1.75 million for 2015-16.

The district’s current mill rate is $5.12. The projected mill rate, provided the override is approved, is $5.11 for the 2013-14 school year, $5.24 for 2014-15 and $5.58 for 2015-16.

The district is in the last year of a two-year nonrecurring revenue-cap override for $800,000 for the 2011-12 school year and $900,000 for this year.

“I’m very grateful for our community and the support at that our community gave us,” Sevastopol Superintendent Linda Underwood said.

The referendum is not a cure-all for the district’s finances, she said.

“The budget problems are the result of the way the state finances public schools, and as long as the state continues to rely exclusively on property values school districts like Sevastopol are going to have to continue to rely exclusively on their taxpayers … to provide the funding for the schools they want,” Underwood said.

Washington Island

The Washington Island School District’s referendum passed 214 to 193.

The district asked its taxpayers to approve a two-year nonrecurring revenue-cap override for $391,000 for the 2013-14 school year and $481,000 for 2014-15.

The Island school district is at the tail end of a one-year nonrecurring revenue-cap override for $380,000 for the current 2012-13 school year.

“Congratulations to Washington Island school students and community; for the first time in its history it passed a multiyear referendum. That is a huge step for our community and our school,” Raymond said. “We are changing the dialogue about who we want to be and where we want to go, and that is a positive dialogue.”

Municipal leaders

Dennis L. Counard will succeed Cletus Fontaine as chairman of the town of Union after winning a narrow victory, 193-184, in Tuesday’s balloting.

“I guess people thought with somebody new, somebody different, things could get done,” Counard said after hearing the results.

He acknowledged that he and the board have their work cut out. Incumbents Ron Renard and John Bur were re-elected.

“Everybody’s budget is tight right now,” Counard said. “There are people on fixed income, people have been laid off ... it’ll be hard to do anymore than what we’re already doing.”

Fontaine, 79, said at first he wasn’t planning to run for re-election, but no one seemed to be coming forward so he filed his papers. Counard filed to run a few days later.

“It is what it is,” he said of the election results. Fontaine plans to serve out his current term on the Door County Board and then step down from public service.

“But I’ll stay active,” he said. “When you quit being active, you die.”

Two other municipal leaders who faced challengers were handily re-elected Tuesday. Forestville Village President Terry McNulty will serve a second term after defeating David Miller with 68.4 percent of the vote. And Washington Town Chairman Joel Gunnlaugsson earned 66 percent of the vote to win re-election over Gordon Jaeger.

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