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Franklin High School renovations win support

Middle school referendum fails to win majority

Nov. 7, 2012

Franklin - Voters on Tuesday approved two of the three school referendum questions, opting to pay for improvements at Franklin High School but not at Forest Park Middle School.

The estimated property tax impact will be 52 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation, meaning that a home valued at $200,000 will be taxed $104 annually to fund the projects.

Unofficial results Wednesday indicated relatively close votes for all three questions.

The first question, asking for expansion of academic space and renovation of facilities at the high school, was approved 53 percent to 47 percent.

The second question, asking for a new auditorium, music and art venues, and expanded parking at the high school was approved 51 percent to 49 percent.

The third question, asking for a new gym, expansion of music and cafeteria space, and more parking with an improved traffic flow at the middle school, was turned down 52 percent to 48 percent.

Listening was key

School officials were happy with the results.

"Overall, it was a good night," Superintendent Steve Patz said. "We felt good about our process. We were transparent in presenting all the details throughout the process.

"I am very appreciative of those who supported us. I understand the reasons why those who did not support us for economic reasons."

Patz said the district will begin planning the expansion and renovation details next week. The project is expected to take up most of the next two years, working around the academic schedule. He also noted that the district will work within its budgets to address a few needs at the middle school.

"We'll certainly see what we can do to address certain aesthetic needs," he said.

Debbie Larson, a School Board member since 2003, said the results left her emotional.

"I am so excited and grateful to the community," she said. "This was successful because we listened to our community and we followed what they indicate were needs."

Credit due

She said much of the credit goes to Patz, especially in light of the district's failure to pass a $77 million referendum five years ago to replace Franklin High School.

"When we interviewed Dr. Patz, we told him we wanted a superintendent who could walk us through the referendum process - and that's exactly what he did," she said.

In fact, Patz said, he has had past referendum success with a similar process in Wisconsin districts serving Chilton and Sparta.

She also pointed to help from an anonymous sign maker who posted black and gold signs along major roads stating "Franklin Public Schools - Vote Yes Times Three"

"No one knows where they came from, but I think they helped," Larson said.

Community benefit

Larson also said one of the reasons why the high school referendums passed while the middle school failed is a matter of community identity.

"The high school is the centerpiece of the community," she said. "Even people who don't have kids in the schools identify with it because they come to football games and they saw that having an auditorium would be of great value.

"This is a great accomplishment, and I know the community will be happy with the results."

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