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Western to hold $80 million referendum in November

Written by Steffani Nolte, Multi-Media Journalist
Courtesy of WXOW La Crosse
July 10, 2012

Full story also found on WXOW website

On Monday, Western Technical College's District Board approved a resolution allowing the college to hold a referendum, in November, for campus improvements.

The referendum will ask tax payers in 11 counties for about $80 million, which would increase taxes $39 a year on a $100,000 home.

Mike Pieper, President of Finance and Operations said Western doesn't have enough space to improve education.

"One of the things we want to do is set up the labs so they can be used by the programs but by local businesses and industries at the same time," Pieper said.

He said that's one of the reasons they need to pass the referendum.

Renovations are also needed in some of the oldest buildings on campus that still have original cooling and heating systems.

"This is pretty cool, if you like old technology," Pieper said. "We still have the old pulley system running a massive fan."

One building is also running hot water boilers from the 1960s, which causes the classroom above it to get very warm when the boilers are running.

They hope to replace the old boilers with condensing hot water boilers.

"This is not just about buildings this is a major investment in Western and our community," Lee Rasch, Western President said.

He said campus improvements will attract more students, who will get better paying jobs because of their college education and hopefully stay here to work.

According to Western, about 25-percent of La Crosse adults have an income below the poverty level, which is why they want to help people get better paying jobs.

"Now think about what happens in our community if more of those working adults, particularly those that are living below the poverty level, are starting to get better paying positions and careers and starting to be able to contribute back into the community," Rasch said.

He said in times like this, he realizes any increase in taxes is a burden, but he wants people to think of it as a long term investment in the community.

Western will hold public meetings on the referendum, at all of its campus locations, starting in two weeks and running up until the election.

Published on July 10th, 2012