NEW BREMEN — After a decisive 61 percent of voters rejected the potential building project last week, New Bremen Board of Education members discussed at their regular meeting Wednesday what the next step should be.
Interim Superintendent John Basinger said he was surprised to see a large number of residents vote against the levy.
“I was very surprised that it was as loud of a no as it was,” he said. “I think we’re going to need more information on what was behind that, and maybe more comprehensive (information) than just the building. There may be more issues.”
Levy Chairs Doug and Cathi Hall reported to board members what they had learned through the process and their recommendations moving forward. Hall thanked board members for the opportunity.
“Thanks for choosing us to lead the levy committee,” he said. “It was definitely a learning experience for us. We’re all sorry it didn’t end with a better outcome, but we thought we could use this as a learning experience.”
Hall told board members the committee talked with a lot of community members and he wanted to share what the committee had learned through the process. He noted that presenting the community with the floor plan of the building presented more questions and concerns than answers and said the committee could have explained the costs of a renovation more clearly. He also said using social media would have been helpful, as a large portion of the New Bremen community is active on Facebook.
Cathi Hall said through talking with community members, she found that people did not want an increase in their taxes.
“The bottom line is, whatever the rationale was, people didn’t vote yes mainly because they didn’t want to pay the taxes, and I don’t think that can be argued, whether they can afford it, whether they cannot afford it — people did not want their taxes to go up,” she said.
The two said they would like to issue a post-poll survey to community members to get an idea of what they were thinking. Basinger agreed that a survey would be helpful.
“I support doing a survey because I think it’s much more comprehensive problem,” Hall said.
“I do have quite a bit of experience with levy campaigns and one of the things I learned a long time ago is that people vote with their heart more than they vote with their head. So, when there’s an overwhelming no vote like we received, I think there’s a couple problems. First of all, we did not get the yes vote out when we needed to. Secondly, there are underlying issues that we need to get to the bottom of that have nothing to do with the new building.”
Basinger recommended the board issue a survey to residents through a third party to get a better grasp on the community’s feelings.
“I’m going to promote that we go and get a professional group of people to do this survey,” he said. “There are groups out there that know what questions to ask to get to the bottom of these things.”
Basinger noted the survey could be issued by phone, for a cost of approximately $8,000, or by mail, for a cost of approximately $2,500. Board members agreed to issue a survey by mail through a third party that will collect and analyze the results.
Board members also discussed their options with placing the levy on the ballot again.
“My opinion is there’s enough of an open wound at this point with the election results that we need to take a deep breath, slow down a little bit, figure out what the survey says and incorporate some of that data into where we go next,” Basinger said. “So, I don’t see us going back in August.”
He noted if the board does not pursue placing the levy on the August ballot, the district will be put on the shelf for funding from the OSFC.
“As you know, the Ohio School Facilities Commission gave you one year, starting with the November election of 2011, to get this thing passed,” Basinger said. “If you don’t do it in August, you become what is called a lapsed district, which basically means that they still have a partnership with you, they’ll still give you the money, but (the money will no longer be reserved for the district).”
He noted that the OSFC will wait until the district passes a levy and will then reassess the district and the district may have different numbers than it did last time.
Board members agreed not to pursue placing the levy on the August ballot, noting that they will reassess their options after they receive the results from the survey.
Board members entered into executive session to discuss employment, and no action was taken when board members reconvened into regular session.
In other business, board members:
• Heard an update on the district’s Race to the Top initiative from Shannon Pence and Shelley This, in which the current focus is on Formative Instructional Practices (FIP).
• Approved a motion to decrease the appropriations and revenue estimates of Fund 572 (Title I) by $808.96 to $54,222.64, decrease the appropriations and revenue estimates of Fund 590 (Title II-A) by $607.48 to $27,158.22 and add the Fund 533 (Title II-D Technology) with appropriations and revenue estimates of $387.57.
The next regular meeting of the New Bremen Board of Education will be held at 7:30 p.m. April 11.