Frequently Asked Questions
What is a Long-Range Facilities Master Plan (LRFMP)?
The Long-Range Facilities Master Plan (LRFMP) will provide a roadmap for facilities development in order to support the goals and strategies of the WAWM School District’s Strategic Plan, the goals of which include: advancing student achievement in meeting educational goals, transforming and sustaining campus infrastructure, and providing new and expanded opportunities for organizational development and effective innovation.
What will the Long-Range Facilities Master Plan Do?
A Long-Range Facilities Master Plan will do the following:
1. Provide a strategy for facilities improvement, renovation, replacement, and new construction over the next 10-20 years.
2. Build a 21st century learning environment that meets the needs of students today and into the future. 3. Develop facilities to anticipate the needs of students and staff for the 21st Century. 4. Identify WAWM facilities in need of modernization in order to serve the West Allis-West Milwaukee communities for the next 10 years and beyond. 5. As a school district with locations in three municipalities, include our communities in the decision-making process.
What are the goals of our facility master planning process?
The goals of our facility master planning process are to Right-Size and Modernize our schools. Right-sizing means operating only the number of school buildings we actually need in order to save money, and modernizing means upgrading building systems so they last another 50 years and creating learning spaces that are engaging and inspiring.
What information has been gathered to date?
A Capacity Analysis Study was conducted. The link to the study is HERE
A Facility Study document was created. The link to the study is HERE
A Capital Improvement Project (CIP) Executive Summary was created. The link to the study is HERE
Pathway Options were developed and discussed. The link to the Pathway Options is HERE
Community Change and Projections studies were conducted. The link to the study is HERE
When did the facilities planning process start?
The facilities planning process began over a year and a half ago in January 2020. The facilities studies and items linked above took place over the course of an entire year (2020) and were conducted by our construction management consultant and an architectural firm who were hired through our Request for Qualifications (RFQ) process. Following these analyses, a Facility Advisory Community Team (FACT) was developed to review these analyses and work through next steps, ultimately forming a recommendation for District facilities moving forward. The FACT Committee was made up of 40 committee members representing many various stakeholder groups, who met 10 times over 6 months, January through June 2021, for a collective 800 hours of effort. This group consisted of one parent and one staff member from each school, school leaders, community members, and two board members (who did not vote). Following FACT's recommendations, four workshops were held with the Board from July through September 2021 to review the analyses and ultimately FACT's recommendation. A timeline of progress can be found HERE.
Is there a chart that shows historical/projected enrollment?
HERE is a link to a graph that shows both historical and projected enrollment.
What is the benefit of right-sizing our schools?
Given that our enrollment has declined, we cannot afford to continue to heat, clean, and maintain all 17 schools. Consolidating schools would allow us to operate more efficiently. Because it is not possible to selectively heat and maintain portions of our school buildings, money is spent on areas that are either not being used or are being underutilized.
What changes are occuring in our enrollment that makes this the right time to right-size?
Our District currently operates 17 schools and serves approximately 7,400 students. During the past six years, student enrollment dropped by nearly 2,500 students. Based on a recent study, enrollment will likely continue to decline at a slow, steady rate and eventually stabilize. Therefore, we have excess capacity. An enrollment study projection, linked in row 11 above, identifies that the decline steadies out through year 2035.
Why do we need to modernize our schools?
Because of their ages, our schools lack areas designed for hands-on learning and small-group instruction. Across the state, more modern schools are being built with multi-use spaces to accommodate both large-group instruction and break-out rooms for student collaboration and group work. The simplest path to making our education system more engaging and relevant to students lies in updating, renovating, and remodeling older school buildings.
Are grade configurations staying the same?
Yes, the current grade configurations will stay the same as they are now. This means having elementary schools with K4-5th grades, intermediate schools with 6-8th grades, and high schools with 9th-12th grades.
How will modernizing our schools support learning?
A school’s physical condition impacts student learning environments and teacher morale. Schools should be viewed as comprehensive learning environments and not just boxes where students hang out until they graduate or drop out of school. Having a modern, updated learning environment can give students a sense of ownership over their education space, improving engagement and outcomes in the process. Beyond enhancing immediate learning, less rigid learning environments are more conducive to collaboration and more effectively prepare students to enter an increasingly creative and diverse workforce.
What determinations did FACT make related to right-sizing?
The Facility Advisory Community Team (FACT) determined that maintaining all our schools is not a good use of taxpayers’ money. Therefore, the FACT recommends right-sizing the District by: 1. Reducing the number of buildings: To lower operating and current/future maintenance costs. 2. Consolidating operations: To improve operating efficiencies. 3. Renovating schools: To create modern, flexible, and supportive learning environments. Please note, if the right-sizing plan is pursued, we will maintain the current class size policy. This means class sizes will not increase due to having fewer buildings as current staffing models and procedures will remain.
Right-sizing: What is being proposed?
To right-size our District, the FACT recommends maintaining the current grade configuration and a phased closing of five (5) buildings over time to align with current and projected enrollments.
Elementary schools: Reduce from 11 to 8 to serve 4K–5th grade.
Intermediate schools: Reduce from 3 to 2 to serve 6th–8th grade.
High schools: Reduce from 3 to 2 to serve students in 9th–12th grade in one comprehensive (yet to be named) and one project-based learning high school.
Charter schools: No changes to the Virtual Academy and Shared Journeys.
Why are we starting with the high schools and intermediate schools?
We know that schools at all grade levels need to be addressed. By starting with the high schools, we can increase programmatic options for our students as soon as possible. Often times there are classes, programs, or even athletics that cannot run because there are not enough students at one school to do so. As such, we already have a number of co-ops between our two comprehensive high schools that run so that programs can continue that wouldn't otherwise. Bringing our 9-12th grades together in one building opens up additional opportunities for the most amount of students in our district in the first phase of these projects. In addition, all students eventually go through the high school, so by beginning here, all students will get to experience the benefits with this upgraded facility and programmatic experience. Working our way then through the grade levels continues to provide our students throughout our district with upgraded and modernized facilities to positively impact their learning experiences. This also provides us with the largest cost savings as early as possible throughout the long-range facilities plan.
Is there anything else the FACT plan recommends?
Update the remaining 12 schools, which will extend their service lives another 30 to 50 years.
1. Make it easier to maintain class sizes and efficiently staff our schools.
2. Eliminate the need to fund maintenance in the buildings being closed (more than $87 million).
3. Result in a net savings of approximately $500,000 each year by having five fewer buildings to heat, clean, and operate.
4. Allow us to increase educational and co-curricular opportunities (such as arts, athletics, etc.).
What is the status of our financial picture? How have our finances improved in the past several years?
We have significantly improved our District’s financial situation over the last five (5) years. Due to our cost management efforts and long-term financial planning, our credit rating has improved an impressive seven (7) steps. We are now rated by Moody’s as “High Grade” and by Standard & Poor's as "Upper Medium Grade", both ratings positively reflecting our strong and stable financial position. We adjusted our expenses to reflect our declining enrollment and to maintain financial stability. Our tax mill rate (which is used to calculate the District’s portion of property tax bills) is at its lowest point in over a decade. Our fund balance is now in a healthy position, which allows us to avoid short-term borrowing for cash-flow purposes, thus avoiding an additional cost of interest associated with borrowing. In addition, our cleaner audit results reflect the procedural improvements we've made over the last five years. These improvements now allow us to focus on long-term facilities planning to ensure we are only operating the necessary number of buildings in order to save operational costs and extend the lives of our buildings for years to come.
What determines how much a homeowner will pay in the school-based portion of their property taxes?
This is based on the revenue limit formula. The revenue limit formula calculates our total revenue that we receive by way of property taxes and state aid, and incorporates our total state aids to calculate our tax levy. The tax levy is divided by our total equalized property values to calculate our mill rate. The mill rate is the amount that a tax-payer will pay for every $1,000 of property value. Our current projected mill rate in 21-22 is $7.94. This means a homeowner who has a home with an equalized home value of $100,000 will pay $794 in their school-based portion of property taxes. If the equalized home value is $200,000, for example, the homeowner would pay $1,588 in their school-based portion of property taxes. For more information on the revenue limit formula, check out slides 6-13 of the 21-22 Annual Budget Hearing Presentation, item 6.2 on the September 13, 2021 agenda linked HERE.
How does school funding work? Can we simply save up for a facility project?
Due to our revenue limit formula (see row 13 for more information), we receive a set amount of money each year based on our resident membership and our per-pupil dollar amount, set by the state. In school funding, this year's dollars are intended for this year's students. We have various funds, or categories, of spending in which we are required to separate our spending. Fund 46, for example, is a Capital Projects Fund. We could transfer dollars each year from our general operating budget to Fund 46. However, doing so could take a century or longer to save enough for a project of this size. If we did so, we would lose 3-5% buying power each year by the time the project would start due to inflation. Most importantly, due to our limited annual funding from the State-imposed revenue limits, it is simpy not feasable to do so without impacting our students' educational programming. The combination of these factors is why school districts seek funding for capital projects through a referendum. The funding formula for WI school districts is such that community support is needed for large-scale projects.
Why haven't you been able to take care of capital projects in the year-to-year operating budget?
Wisconsin school districts have been subject to State imposed revenue limits since 1993. WAWM, like other school districts in the State, works hard to balance the budget on an annual basis and keep spending within these revenue controls. However, it is difficult to fund large scale capital projects, including renovations and additions to facilities, within the constraints of the normal operating budget. Doing so would negatively impact the educational programming in our schools (class sizes, programs offered) and could take a century to save up. This creates the need for referendum approval by the taxpayers of a school district.
What does a $1.50 mill rate impact mean?
$1.50 mill rate impact means for every $100,000 of equalized home value, the homeowner's property taxes will be $150 more annually. This equates to $12.50 more monthly.
What does a $1.96 mill rate impact mean?
$1.96 mill rate impact means for every $100,000 of equalized home value, the homeowner's property taxes will be $196 more annually. This equates to $16.33 more monthly.
Why do the Intermediate and High School learning environments need to be updated?
Tech Ed (Shop class to many of us) - There is a growing demand for skilled trades and professionals in manufacturing, engineering and design in our region. Our goal is to integrate more STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education into our traditional technical education program. However, the current layout of our classrooms limits the ability to incorporate technology and equipment to provide hands-on learning opportunities. The renovation would create flexible learning spaces and improved woods, metals and manufacturing spaces.
Science Labs – Many of the school science facilities have not been updated since they were originally built. These labs are too small and many plumbing fixtures, gas jets, electrical infrastructure, and work stations are worn out and need to be replaced. The spaces were not designed to support the current science classes nor any new offerings.
Classroom Moderization - Many classrooms have remained untouched for decades. Due to their age, the classrooms have insufficient lighting, poor acoustics, inadequate ventilation, and lack sufficient electrical capacity to support technology. Technology devices were simply not invented at the time our schools were built and therefore our buildings lack adequate outlets and charging spaces for our students' needs. In addition, today’s classrooms require flexible space for large group and small group collaboration.
Why do the building mechanical systems need to be modernized?
We've been doing a good job of maintaining our buildings and the buildings mechanical systems over time, but many are simply at the end or over their service lives due to their age. Similar to an old roof, we can make repairs as the roof ages, but at some point, a contractor will advise that repairs are no longer cost effective and we need a new roof.
What is an operating referendum?
An operating referendum asks permission from voters to exceed the state-imposed revenue limit for the purpose of funding school operations, such as salaries, benefits, utilities, programming, etc. It is NOT a referendum to incur debt to complete facility projects. Operating referendums may be one-time (non-recurring) or recurring (annually for a set dollar amount).
What is a capital referendum?
A capital referendum is a one-time referendum that asks voters for permission to add to the District's debt in order to pay for facility projects.