Herald JournalHerald Journal, Nov. 22, 2004

HLWW turns to mail-in ballot for operating levy

By Jenni Sebora

The Howard Lake–Waverly–Winsted School Board set its sights on a mail-in ballot in the early part of next year again asking voters to approve an operating levy.

The school board unanimously approved a mail-in ballot after much discussion at last Monday’s meeting on a levy referendum.

No levy amount or specific date has been set, but the ballot will be sometime between Jan. 3 and April 15.

Superintendent George Ladd said earlier than later is better, particualry if the board has to cut employee positions. State laws specify timelines for letting staff go, especially if they’re tenured.

If any employees would be cut, letters would have to be mailed to those people by April 15, Ladd said.

“The earlier you can let staff know, the better for them, so they can look for other jobs or positions,” Ladd said.

If the levy passes this spring, the district can be borrow money knowing the levy passed and any cuts could be minimized, School Board Member Al Doering said.

If the levy doesn’t pass, approximately $800,000 in cuts must be made, Doeirng said.

Board Member Charles Weber agreed, saying if the levy passes this spring, cutting $300,000 versus $700,000 plus, is better.

“I think we will have a hard time if we wait until next fall,” Weber said.

Doreing agreed, adding “There are also school board positions open next fall. Do we really want to mix up the levy vote with board votes?”

In support of a mail-in ballot this spring, Board Chair Lideen said, “We need just a 1.l percent turn-around in the vote, and we pass the operating levy. The operating levy is in the public eye. If we wait until next November, do we lose it?”

Board Member Tom Hammer reminded the board of statistics presented at the last board meeting, stating mail-in ballots have had a 47 percent passage rate.

Many mail-in ballots are building bond votes, so that may be the reason why they didn’t pass, Lideen said.

Board members also expressed fear of losing students to open enrollment if the board waits until next November for another operating levy vote.

“If we would pass a levy this spring, we may catch some of the students and families before they open enroll for next year,” Doering said.

Hammer agreed, and said the possiblity of losing students to open enrollment if the board waits until next November made him support a mail-in ballot this spring.

Hammer, however, said he had some concerns that a mail-in ballot is a fairly complicated legal process, and it takes extra energy to do a mail-in.

“It is time-consuming and labor-intensive and may be easier for voters to vote ‘no,’” Hammer said.

The cost of a mail-in ballot would be in the range of $17,000 to $20,000, Lideen said, later stressing that there were “very approximate” numbers.

It cost $1.20 per ballot to mail with an estimated 10,000 ballots going out. Another cost would be the letters that must be sent notifying district residents that a ballot will be mailed to them.

Other costs include printing and election judges.

In 2003, the referendum costs were $23,441, and as of Oct. 31, the last referendum costs $5,542, but this will increase as bills come in, Ladd said.

Board members stressed community involvement is important in passing the levy.

Doering and Schaible said board members can’t organize a “yes” vote committee and as board members, they cannot go door to door because there are laws that restrict that. As private citizens, they can go door to door or be on a committee.

“We need a rallying from people as a whole,” Schaible said.

District resident Kendell Kubasch wanted to do just that.

“There’s a huge base of motivated people to do this,” Kubasch said.

Kubasch said he would coordinate a citizens support group. With the board’s support, a 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 23 meeting at the high school media center was set for anyone interested in supporting the district’s operating levy refendum.

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