Article Archive 2023

What time is it in Oconomowoc? Well, of course, it's referendum time again. The school district has been working double-time to promote $75,450,000 in new spending. You can hardly turn the corner lately without bumping into some sort of promotional material designed to sway your vote in favor of the referendum. How does a new HVAC system and roof sound to you? If you like that, you may also be interested in a renovated art room and an expanded cafeteria. Don't worry about anything; you can have all this and more while our "magical" mill rate remains low. Just a cup of coffee in the bizarro world of BIG government. If you dare question any of this, you risk being labeled an "enemy of education" or even "anti-children."

Although I am disappointed with the capital funding process, I favor replacing the HVAC system now because it is at the end of its life and will likely cost us more if we wait for a catastrophic failure. Some people may be more in tune with the prospect of having a first-class music room. I prefer prioritizing science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Maybe your neighbor really wanted that indoor sports facility. We can debate the merits of each project at nauseum. So, let's not. Instead, I want to focus on the long-term and ask the question: What will we do differently in the future to avoid the unsustainable cycle of crisis, guilt, referendum, and more debt?

Unfortunately, society has conditioned many of us to accept and even normalize massive amounts of debt. Americans' total credit card debt was recently estimated at $986 billion. The US debt is currently over $31.5 trillion. If the latest OASD referendum passes, we will have accumulated $214 million in debt attributed to referendums since 2006. How could this have happened? We must do better, and that starts by managing our money more responsibly right here in our homes, schools, and city halls.

Regardless of the referendum's outcome, we need a better capital process. No longer can we be comfortable with a system that too frequently compels the taxpayer to pay a referendum as a ransom for our children's education. If we say we have balanced our budget, but then we ask for millions in referendum money, did we honestly balance our budget? In contrast, I want a long-term plan outlining our capital projects and major maintenance expenses for the next 5, 10, 15 years, and beyond (I think we already have some of that in place). However, the plan must include a financial strategy to save a significant portion of the necessary funding. From my perspective, this is the piece that has been missing. For example, I am disappointed that we have not allocated a single penny to offset the 30 million HVAC project cost. Instead, we are going to families already struggling in this economy and asking for the amount in full. Imagine if, over the last 15 years, OASD had saved up even 50% of the project cost. Perhaps the community response would be more favorable if the referendum were needed to cover the gap rather than the whole.

The pushback against this paradigm shift is a sentiment from many individuals (some serving on the school board) that public schools don't work that way. They assure us that paying for capital projects out of their shoestring operating budgets is impossible. To be fair, some of this can be attributed to systemic failures in how public schools are funded on the state and federal levels. However, we must challenge the status quo and seek innovation to manage the massive and growing OASD budget. This means a commitment to finding savings and the courage to reduce spending where possible. We should all support OASD, but we can't tax and spend our way to making OASD an unrivaled district. We must be willing to do things differently.

Greggry DeMark

Are you someone that is looking for a meaningful opportunity to get involved and support our local schools? If so, now is the time to join the parent-teacher organization (PTO). The PTO brings parents and teachers together to improve communication, plan events, and ultimately build a sense of community at our schools. A school district where parents and teachers work together is exactly what our kids need and deserve. However, many of our school's PTOs need new members to bolster their ranks and prepare the next generation of parent leaders. Please consider contacting your child's school to inquire about supporting or joining the PTO.

Greggry DeMark

Summit PTO
Greenland PTO
Meadowview PTO
Xionia PTO
Silver Lake PTO
Nature Hill

High School


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Bouncing Back Foundation