Committee recommends fall Evansville school referendum

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Gina Duwe
Thursday, March 13, 2014

EVANSVILLE--The Evansville School Board should consider a fall referendum that would address curriculum, safety and security, facilities and technology, the district's citizens advisory committee recommended Wednesday night.

Improvements in those areas could cost $5.52 million, according to audits the district recently completed as it prepared for a community survey conducted earlier this year.

Committee Chairwoman Amanda Koenecke presented two options for the board to consider:

--Posing no more than three referendum questions to the community at an election Sept. 9, 2014. The board could consider combining safety and security with facilities as one question and not exceed the $2.8 million listed in the community survey.

--Combine all categories into one referendum question at the Nov. 4, 2014 election.

The difference in the September and November timelines were based on how the money would be spent, district Business Manager Doreen Treuden said. If a referendum asks for money for a specific category such as facilities, it can only be spent on facilities. A referendum that rolls several categories into one question allows the district to spend the money as needed across the categories.

A November referendum question seeking money for facilities would create a short timeline to spend the money within the fiscal year, Treuden explained. Moving it to September would open a bigger window.

The committee did not make any recommendations on costs for a referendum.

Residents responded with support for potential referendums based on the community survey, which received a 29.7 percent response rate. The response rate originally was miscalculated at 32.3 percent when the results were presented last month.

The survey showed these numbers:

--64 percent would vote for a $900,000 curriculum and textbook referendum

--55 percent would vote for a $300,000 safety and security referendum

--49 percent would vote for a $2.8 million maintenance referendum

--57 percent would vote for a $1.52 million technology referendum

All potential referendums were proposed across four years.

The citizens advisory committee decided not to propose a referendum to attract and retain employees because it felt those figures needed to be worked into the annual budget. Putting salary and benefits into a referendum would create a fiscal cliff, Koenecke said, and the committee wasn't sure it wanted to do that.

The committee's recommendations also:

--Supported starting a 4k program.

--Suggested the board consider planning to renovate or replace the middle school no later than the 2018-19 school year.

--Suggested the board repeat the parent-only section of the community survey annually.

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