Herald JournalHerald Journal, Dec. 20, 2004

Dates set for mail-in referendum; amount to be determined

By Jane Otto
Staff Writer

For the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted School Board, it’s now not a matter of when, but how much.

It took two votes, but on a 5-1 decision, the board set a March 29 mail-in ballot for an operating levy.

“It will give us more time to be able to communicate with the public the reasons why we need this,” Superintendent George Ladd said after the meeting.

The board was split, however, on what amount that levy should be. Board members must agree on an amount by the Jan. 18 meeting to meet election deadlines.

Picking a date

The first time around, board members were split on the March 29 date with Al Doering, Charles Weber and John Lideen voting against it.

They preferred a Feb. 15 referendum, stressing waning public interest in the recently failed levy vote and knowing where the district stands financially as reasons why.

Experience has shown as time wears on, the public’s interest wanes, Doering said.

“If we’re under tight time constrains, I believe we’d have (voters’) attention,” Doering said. “The sooner we do it, the better.”

Weber and Lideen agreed with Doering.

“I’d rather see a vote early and do think we could accomplish it,” Lideen said.

Weber, who cast the lone opposing vote the second time, said knowing whether a levy had passed would help in making cuts, which it must do sometime in March.

“The sooner we do it and get it over with, the more we’re going to know,” he said.

Taking a lighter approach, Board Member Charlie Borrell replied, “The sooner we get this over with, the less stress I’m under, and my cardiologist would recommend that.”

Board members favoring the March 29 date said more time would help.

“At this point, we truly don’t know what money we have left over,” Board Member Dan Schaible said. “It’s also giving us this time in January on how to proceed.”

Sitting in the audience, district resident Kendell Kubasch told the board his concerns.

Kubasch chairs a recently formed support-the-levy committee called Levies for Education and Achievement are Really Necessary or LEARN.

For his committee to do its job effectively, Kubasch said in light of the holidays, the earlier referendum date isn’t enough time to organize.

LEARN, which met Tuesday, supported a March 29 referendum.

“If the committee wants this date, than I’d like to go with it, because they are our biggest asset,” Schaible said. “This whole thing hinges on the people going out and talking with the voters . . . We need people knocking on doors.”

Lideen and Doering were swayed to the March 29 vote realizing that the board needs LEARN’s support and that March 29 would give the group more time to do that.

A deadlock

Once a referendum date was set, the board knew it had some time to set a levy amount.

“We don’t have to do this today, but we do have the information sitting in front of us,” Lideen said.

For an hour, the board hashed over what the district has now and what it will need in the future.

The dividing line was a $500 per pupil unit levy. The district would receive additional state money up to $500 per pupil unit.

“We would max out in getting back state aid,” Borrell said.

Ladd reminded the board that the existing levy of $101 per pupil unit expires in 2007. “We will have to come back to our voters in 2007,” he said.

Looking to build reserves and improve the district, Schaible said, “I want to do more than break even, I want to improve . . . Like Charlie said, we don’t want to get the money, only to have to turn around and ask for more.”

“I do not want to be one to ask for more money than we need,” Doering replied. “You ask for it, you get it, it will be used for something.”

On a 3-3 vote, the $500 per pupil unit levy failed, with Custer, Schaible and Weber voting against it.

The board will pick up the discussion 7 p.m. tonight at its regular meeting.

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