/ Articles / Lakeland Union Board of Education considers options following failed referendum

Lakeland Union Board of Education considers options following failed referendum

April 10, 2020 by Kayla Houp

The Lakeland Union High School Board of Education discussed Monday, Feb. 24 how to move forward after a $3.45 million recurring operational referendum authorized by the board failed Feb. 18 with 3,073 no votes and 2,402 yes votes.

Over the course of the discussion, the board talked about some of the reasons they believed the referendum failed, and what steps to take next, including the possibility of reactivating its ad hoc referendum committee.

Board member Shari Nimsgern, filling in for an absent board president Ed Schaub, relayed a message from board member Sarah Kemp identifying a condensed timeline as one of the potential reasons the referendum failed, and advised considering a non-recurring referendum over a recurring referendum.

Board member Emily Hallstrom stated she agreed with Kemp’s comments based on what she had heard from community members as well as on social media.

“That’s the same comment I got afterwards, that they would have preferred it not be recurring,” board member Barb Peck said. “Also dividing out the capital projects from the operational projects.”

Board member Gary Smith echoed a similar concern about the referendum’s timeline.

“I know that we were  advised to go with the timeline that we did,” he said. “I thought, personally, that it was too short. We should’ve started way earlier.”

He added that if the board had low turnout at some of the public information meetings, they could schedule more with a longer timeline

“I really think we need to engage our community a little bit better in the ad hoc committee, getting some of the people from our community to understand better what we’re trying to do with the referendum would be key for us going forward,” board member Pam Carroll said.

Carroll emphasized a need for including community members as well as staff members in the committee alongside board members.

“I think our informational meeting showed that there’s alack of interest, or an understanding, of people wanting to come and gather information,” board member Jon Berg said.

Berg praised both district administrator and curriculum director Rob Way and district finance director Greg Kopp for their presentation given at the public information meeting, but stated that with low turnout a “lot of that information” wasn’t getting out to the public. 

“I really don’t think that people have a real understanding of the complexities of school funding and how it puts pressure on us,” Berg said. 

He added that if the district went with a non-recurring referendum, the district may have to back referendum “much like some of our neighbors.”

“We need a greater involved public that has a real understanding of how school funding is and the need for it,” Berg said. “I think the shock value of $3.45 million was too much for many that don’t have an understanding of what our real needs are.” 

The board will revisit its options for re-establishing an ad-hoc referendum committee at its next board meeting in March.

Kayla Houp may be reached via email at [email protected]

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