What is a referendum?
A referendum is a direct vote by the public to either accept or reject a proposal. In this case, the referendum question asked voters in the Fox Valley Technical College district for the authority to borrow money to support the expansion and construction of FVTC facilities to meet the high-demand training needs of local students and area employers.
By state law, the amount of money FVTC can spend on new buildings, additions, or land acquisition without going to voters is limited to $1.5 million per campus every two years. Any new buildings, additions, or land acquisition beyond the $1.5M cap (not funded through gifts, grants, or federal funds) must be approved by voters in a public referendum.
FVTC’s Board of Trustees and college leadership are very sensitive to the current economic situation and its impact on many families in the region. They are also keenly aware of the critical role that FVTC plays in rebuilding the local economy by giving workers the skills they need for sustainable employment.
There has never been a more important time to invest in facilities that help meet the demand for qualified workers. Our program enrollment has increased 30% in the last three years. In addition, we now serve nearly 53,000 people a year, more than any other Wisconsin technical college.
In addition, interest rates for municipal borrowing are at historic lows, making this an ideal time to borrow funds. Interest rates for this project are based on a conservative interest rate range of 4.75-5.25%.
The construction market is highly competitive right now, which should result in very reasonable bids on the various project components.
What impact will this project have on the local economy?
A recently completed independent economic impact study reports that one of the projects alone – the Public Safety Training Center – will have a significant impact on the local economy by boosting job creation, spending, and tax revenue in both the short- and long-term. The study projects nearly $12 million in annual economic impact for the region, with approximately $500,000 of new tax revenue annually. Learn more >>
How was the location of the projects decided?
Facility expansions are typically determined based on where the existing programs are based, where need is the greatest, and where the service is most accessible within our district. Our plan expands our existing programs to meet the demand, and does that without duplication across our service area. It would be inefficient and irresponsible to the taxpayer to duplicate our offerings in each facility across the region.
Will these facilities still be needed long-term?
Throughout our 100 year history, meeting the educational needs of the local workforce has been the mission of Fox Valley Technical College. Our close relationship with regional employers ensures that program offerings, facilities, and technology are directly aligned with current and future workforce needs. Forecasts indicate a continuing demand for skilled workers in public safety, health care, agriculture, transportation and other fields. In addition to students seeking degrees, these areas also have high demand for training working professionals.
What is included in the project costs?
The total referendum amount approved by the Board of Trustees and district voters is $66.5 million. This not-to-exceed cost estimate, developed by Miron Construction, includes all new construction, renovations, site work, parking, contingencies, professional services, permits and fees.
Will local business have the opportunity to be involved in the project?
Absolutely. Partnering with companies throughout our region (which includes parts of nine counties) is a vital component of our work at FVTC. All aspects of the projects will be competitively bid and will bring significant opportunities to contractors, suppliers, and other business that support those living and working in the Fox Valley region. As noted in a recently completed economic impact study that specifically focused on the Public Safety Training Center, it is estimated that project alone will bring approximately $12 million in annual economic impact to our region.
Why not increase tuition to cover these costs?
Fox Valley Technical College is dedicated to providing an affordable, quality college education. The Wisconsin Technical College System sets the tuition rate each year for all technical colleges in the state. Fox Valley Tech does not have the discretion to raise or lower tuition rates for any purpose.
How is Fox Valley Tech funded?
Funding for operations comes from a variety of sources including property taxes, tuition & fees, grants and state aid. The chart below illustrates the breakdown:
Funding for Operations (2010-2011)
What are the ongoing operating costs for these projects?
Annual operating costs to support the projects are estimated to be about $1.5 million when all of the building is completed. About two-thirds of the costs will be offset by savings from purchasing leased facilities and an increase in revenue generated by the new facilities. We will build the balance of the costs into our annual operating budget over the course of the next 3-4 years, just as we do with any new initiatives. As a result, the new operating expenses for these facilities will not produce additional tax impact beyond the debt repayment. Learn more about the operating costs for these projects >>
When was the last time FVTC had a referendum?
It has been 14 years since Fox Valley Tech has requested taxpayer assistance for building expansion or improvements. The college has a long and strong record of prudent fiscal management and has been through a rigorous process to establish demonstrated need for these facilities. In fact, the debt for the last referendum was paid in full in 2008, and the college currently holds no long-term debt.
What was achieved as a result of the 1998 referendum?
The expansion that resulted from the 1998 referendum allowed the college to serve the growing needs of area employers, and positioned us to serve the huge numbers of students we have seen in recent years.
The 1998 referendum accomplished the following:
- Created the J. J. Keller Transportation Center (automotive technology, auto collision, diesel technology)
- Completely renovated and added significant square footage for our manufacturing-related programs and apprentice trades
- Greatly expanded the Printing Technologies Center
- Added the Criminal Justice wing
- Completely renovated the Agriculture Center
- Completely renovated the Riverside Campus in Oshkosh
- Greatly expanded the S. J. Spanbauer Center in Oshkosh for our Wood Manufacturing, Residential Construction, Practical Property, and Welding programs
Since that time, we have also made significant ongoing annual investments in technology and equipment and other investments in facilities through small expansions or leases. These investments have included the FABTECH Education Center in Oshkosh, the Waupaca Regional Center, the Sustainable Technology Center in Appleton, and the Advanced Manufacturing Technology Center in Oshkosh, among others.
What did the referendum question look like on the April 3 ballot?
Attached is the official language of the FVTC referendum question as it appeared on the ballot on April 3.
Were the projects voted on separately or as a package?
The college’s Board of Trustees decided to present the projects to the voters in one comprehensive package, rather than asking the public to consider multiple questions on the ballot. College staff conducted a comprehensive analysis and prioritization of various high-demand program areas, and determined the seven proposed projects to be those with the most significant and urgent needs. Because interest rates are so low, the college will maximize project funds and construction efficiencies by bundling these projects together.
When will the new facilities be completed?
Conceptual planning has been underway for months, and now that voters have approved the projects, detailed architectural design work has begun on all major projects. The Health Simulation and Technology Center, as well as the Agriculture Center expansion, are estimated to be completed by the fall of 2013. Expansion of the Transportation Center is expected to be finished in early 2014, with the Student Success Center addition and the Public Safety Training Center expected to be fully ready for use by the fall of 2014.