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All Dane County school districts poised to pass referendums with final results trickling in

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At least eight Madison area schools have passed referendums, and many more are poised to do the same — including every referendum in Dane County — signaling the state's trend of increasing passage rates could continue.

Eight school districts in Dane County and 15 school districts in the greater Madison area had referendums, ranging from new construction projects to funding to keep and attract staff.

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As of 11 p.m., preliminary results showed that all of Dane County's school districts had either passed their referendums or were likely to with almost all precincts reporting.

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So far, two districts did not pass referendums, and two districts had split support across multiple referendums.

The Waunakee School District passed both its $175 million construction referendum — the second largest referendum in the state — with nearly 53% of the vote, and its $10 million operational referendum with just over 60% of the vote.

The Stoughton School District passed both its $36.3 million and $11.7 million construction referendums. With all precincts reporting, more than 60% of voters were in favor of both referendums.

And the Mount Horeb School District passed its $4.82 million operational referendum with just over 65% of the vote.

The Belleville, Middleton-Cross Plains, Oregon, Sun Prairie and Verona School Districts were also all set to pass their referendums with nearly all precincts reporting.

Both the Fort Atkinson and Jefferson School Districts saw split results.

Fort Atkinson's $16 million operational referendum failed with only 47% of the vote, but its $22 million construction referendum passed with 53% of the vote.

Jefferson similarly split its two construction referendums. Its $8 million referendum failed with 41% of the vote, but its $34 million referendum passed with more than 52%.

The Monroe School District narrowly approved its $88 million referendum to construct a new high school and complete improvements at its elementary school.

With just under all precincts reporting, the North Crawford School District's two referendums were heading towards passage, while the Waterloo School District's referendum was likely to fail.

Statewide, the La Crosse School District had the biggest referendum in the state this year, asking voters to approve nearly $195 million to consolidate its middle and high schools.

As of 11 p.m., with all of La Crosse County precincts reporting, the referendum was failing with just over 69% of voters casting votes against it.

Across the state, voters cast ballots in 81 different school referendums on Tuesday, concluding a year with the highest number of referendums since 2001. 

The high number of referendums is a sign of the times as school districts grapple with inflation, staffing issues, and COVID relief funds that are quickly running out. The State Legislature also didn't raise school districts' revenue limits for the current biennium.

Passage rates have been increasing for referendums statewide over the last decade. Of the 85 referendums held earlier this year, just over 81% were approved by voters.

Wisconsin schools have highest number of referendums in 21 years

Heading into Tuesday's election, experts weren't sure how the evolving economic conditions and a possibly high turnout may impact how many referendums are approved.

In the last midterm election in 2018 — when there was record voter turnout for midterm elections in Wisconsin — just under 94% of referendums were approved.

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Olivia Herken is an education reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal. She is a former local government and political reporter for the La Crosse Tribune, and a graduate of the UW-Madison School of Journalism.

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