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New Law Changes Time Requirement For Filing Referendum Questions

Public Finance Law Update Elizabeth S. Blutstein, John W. Daniels, Julianna Ebert, Ann M. Murphy, Brian G. Lanser, Jeff Peelen, Jennifer V. Powers, Michael L. Roshar, Kevin Slaughter, Rebecca A. Speckhard, Kathleen J. Swan, Allison M. Buchanan, Bridgette DeToro, Alexander J. Gore

The purpose of this update is to alert you to a change in the timing requirements for filing referendum questions under the Wisconsin Statutes. As you may be aware, recently signed 2011 Wisconsin Act 75 (the "Act") changes the fall primary date in Wisconsin from the second Tuesday in September to the second Tuesday in August. However, the Act also includes an important change for school districts that affects the timeline for calling a referendum.

Under current State law, referendum questions must be filed with the official or agency responsible for preparing the ballots for the election no later than 42 days prior to the election and with the clerk of each county having territory within the school district no later than the end of the next business day thereafter (Wis. Stats. 8.37). The Act will now require that referendum questions be filed no later than 70 days prior to the election. This means that a school district that wishes to hold a referendum either to exceed its revenue limit or issue debt will likely need to adopt a resolution, at a properly noticed meeting in accordance with Wisconsin's Open Meetings Law, at least a few days before the 70-day deadline prior to the date of the election in order to make the necessary filings in time.

School districts that are planning a referendum should take note of this change in the required timeline for adopting the resolution providing for the referendum. In particular, any school district planning on holding a referendum on the February 21, 2012 spring primary date will need to file the referendum question by December 13, 2011.

The Act is scheduled to be published on December 1, 2011. The new filing time requirement will become effective the day after the Act is published. The full text of the Act can be found here:

If you have any questions, please contact any attorney in our Public Finance Group.