Bond Vote

Our school board identified the need to do significant building renovations a number of years ago. Our first proposal to pass a bond to pay for this work was defeated. The board reworked the scope of the project – reducing the cost – and reached out to the community in a series of meetings, presentations, and informal conversations. Our second attempt to pass a bond to pay for this work was defeated – again by a small margin. Has anyone found a strategy to build support for this kind of initiative?

  1. We have been able to undertake some significant renovation projects thru our capital reserve fund. Each year our union school asks voters at the annual meeting to approve a separate article allocating money for the capital reserve fund typically $65,000. Those funds are used for capital projects that are in excess of $10,000. For several years, the money accumulated until we had enough to repave the parking lot. Recently, we have used the funds to tackle energy efficiency projects such as installing energy efficient windows, energy efficient lighting, replacing our hot water system, and retrofitting our boiler.

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  2. Infiltrate the American Legion, the VFW, your Seniors’ Center, your congregations, your Realtors, Business Bureaus, Fraternities, Chambers of Commerce, etc. Have their boards push your agendas. Letters to the editors should be creative, persuasive (not argumentative) frequent and varied. Letters from critics should be answered quickly and in friendly, understanding terms. Articulate, cogent (mature) student persuasion is valuable; sappy, whiny, “needy” appeals are ineffective and cost you votes.

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  3. This was many years ago, but we had the same sort of situation. For the second attempt we enlisted the assistance of community members to participate in all aspects of research and committee work. One committee I felt made a difference was relating all renovations/expansions to the state Standards and how the changes would increase our schools ability to achieve these standards.

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  4. We have never had the need to tackle any major renovations yet. Our school is about 48-49 years old and has been properly maintained.

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  5. Our school just went through this within the past five years. We received the ‘last’ large state commitment for supporting renovations and building of school buildings. And let me tell you that it was HARD work! We found some success in creating a building committee made up mostly of community members that worked with a couple of board reps around what is needed,why, what it would look like, cost, etc. You might have to repeat some of the work you have already done to include community members but when they are involved and help to make those important decisions, they can also become the spokespersons necessary who are equally knowledgable about the project. Our building committee changed slightly but for the most part we were in place for nearly six years as a group.

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  6. Possible solutions:
    1. Create a “Long-Term Maintenance Fund” which only requires a lower amount to be voted on as a separate Article. It is a long term approach that would allow your community to save for future projects like building construction and maintenance.
    2. Work the different building renovations into the regular budget with a 5-10 year plan outlining the different needed pieces. This will allow for different maintenance, repair or upgrade be voted with the rest of the proposed budget expenses every year (not as a separate article), but be a lower amount to be addressed annually.

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  7. It sounds like you have done a good job so far. The only suggestion I have is to try to identify the “groups that are voting against the bond and personally invite some of those people to sit on a committee to address the problems with the building. They may come on Board when they have a say in the solution.

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  8. We involved community members in the preliminary discussions and, as we are a board representing several elementary boards, having representation (non-board members) from within each community on board, helped.

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  9. One suggestion is to make sure the project has something in it for many interests. Athletics, Music, and Academics because that way you will get more of a broad support group.

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  10. We’re facing a similar project here, and we started with the fundamental question of whether the community actually wanted a school at all, or if we should explore shipping our kids elsewhere.

    It seems like an obvious question, but we felt as a board that it was one that needed to be asked before we could proceed with any sort of bond.

    From there forward, we’ve gone to great pains to conduct the entire process in an open and inclusive manner. We’ve done a number of mailings and community forums and meetings that we advertised via phone tree and direct mailing to residents. It’s a TON of work, but we felt like it was the only way to ensure that everyone has their say.

    We don’t know how it will turn out, we’re still working toward a project scope, with the plan of going to bond in June. But we’re working hard to be open and inclusive as we move forward.

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  11. No “magic” strategy at present. Our school is in the same situation and our community has said….”stop asking!”…We NEED to get the legislature to address the critical “infra-structural issue” of supporting local boards who are required, by law, to maintain the local schools. End the embargo on State aid and think outside the box regarding how to help with state aid. The folks in our community won’t take the full hit but…might become open to discussing things IF there was state aid.

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  12. We had a similar issue last year. Our first effort at a bond for badly needed renovation was defeated. We did the following…
    Scaled back the scope
    Had a series of meetings – some were open, some were with specific people
    Organized parents of current students to lobby friends and acquaintances
    Put out lots of written documentation and rationale showing that the compelling need and that investment now would result in huge savings over the long term and that special governmental programs practically gave us interest-free money.
    Budget changes that made tax rates likely to stay flat, even with bond payments. (Currently they are projected to go down by $.02 in the coming fiscal year.
    More documentation widely distributed addressing specific concerns raised at meetings and by casual conversations with townspeople in chance meetings.
    A website that contained all relevant information and that was updated frequently.
    A carefully documented and choreographed presentation at the special meeting the day before the vote.
    Good luck to those involved.

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  13. Getting, and keeping, community support is something we work on continuously. Website, televised meetings, and Board members speaking to community members on an ongoing basis are all important. We firmly believe that reaching out to the public is an important, year-round, duty. Not just at voting day.

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  14. As far as building renovations are concerned, every year we ask the community to support a $30,000 request to replace windows doors or whatever it takes to save money on energy. So far they have always said yes, we have been able to update our building a little at a time, we try to keep a bond for a more serious problem such as a roof.

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