UPDATE: Rallying for referenda - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

UPDATE: Rallying for referenda

STOUGHTON (WKOW) -- Dozens of school districts across Wisconsin are gearing up for referenda in April, including 13 districts in the Madison area.

On Friday, organizers tried to rally support for two referenda in Stoughton to discuss what they call the bleak future of Stoughton education and the larger community if the referenda fail.

"The more affluent people who are interested in very good education will leave our community. Those who are interested in top-quality education will not move to Stoughton, and we will end up with a main street that looks like it's a slum with vacant building after vacant building," said Buzz Davis, one of the organizers of Friday's meeting.

Only about 20 people showed up to the meeting, which supporters worry could be a sign that the referenda are in trouble.

Stoughton is known for being an older community, which can make it difficult to pass a school referendum, when many voters don't have school-aged children themselves.

But supporters of the measures in Stoughton say voters need to think about the larger community.

"I don't have any children in the district anymore; I don't have any grandchildren in the district. But I'm voting for it because it was people like me - gray hairs, retirees and parents without children in the district - who helped me get through school and I want to do the same," said Terry McArdle, a former Stoughton school board member who supports the referenda.

One of the measures is a four year, $8.5-million operating referendum that would result in a nearly $200 property tax increase for the average homeowner in the district. If the measure fails, the district would be forced to cut teachers and extra-curricular programs.

The last time Stoughton had a referendum was in 2005. It failed to pass, and as a result, Yahara Elementary shut down and more than 60 staff positions were cut.

Online reporting by Jamie Hersch
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