The Milton School Board’s strategic planning committee tried Thursday to find facilities needs everyone could agree on as the school district takes its next step toward a possible third referendum.
Chairwoman Betsy Lubke said she wanted to get back to basics and find a unifying solution. She used an easel and marker to make a list of guidelines and must-have needs the board could support.
“Let’s go back to that base,” she said. “If we can get that agreement, I’ve said this before and I’ll say this again, we need to be a unanimous board. That’s a critical element.”
As they brainstormed needs for Lubke’s list, committee members and school officials agreed the solution needs to be cost-effective, address overcrowding, fix safety and security problems, update access for the disabled and involve all levels of the district.
Communications Supervisor Jerry Schuetz said whatever solution the board chooses, he wants it to be something the community can feel good about supporting. The past two failed referendums have been “unintentionally polarizing,” and the school board needs to fix that, he said.
Lubke and District Administrator Tim Schigur said doing so requires all board members to back the solution.
Committee member Brian Kvapil, who has often taken an opposing view to other facilities-related questions, agreed with Lubke and Schigur. Finding a compromise for the right price will not be easy, but it is doable, he said.
Finding the right price might be the toughest part. Lubke suggested a range of $40 million to $50 million.
That would be a significant reduction compared to previous referendums for $87 million and $69.9 million. The breadth of the solution would have to be condensed as well.
Once finished with the list of parameters, the committee tried to determine how to put it into action.
Lubke and Shelly Crull-Hanke suggested going back to the needs outlined by the Facilities Advisory Community Team, or FACT, several years ago. Some of those have been addressed, but new issues might have arisen, they said.
Kvapil wanted to devise a detailed rubric to prioritize all the district’s needs. It could be a points-based system, he said.
Kvapil also wanted to seek more community input to get financial estimates. Contractors in the Milton area might be willing to volunteer their time to do that, which could improve public support, he said.
That would give the overall project some “independent eyes,” Kvapil said. He argued it would guard against perceived conflicts of interest with Plunkett Raysich Architects or JP Cullen, firms hired for previous referendums that continue to work with the district.
Schigur agreed that he and other officials could examine the FACT-compiled list and see what’s been finished. Kvapil said he would bring examples of prioritization criteria from other districts so Milton could create its own.
The meeting’s tone remained mostly cordial and agreeable, which has not been the case in other facilities discussions.
Afterward, Lubke said she felt optimistic.
“I really felt strongly that there were a lot of things that as a board we could agree on, and probably that meant the community could agree on as well,” she said. “We’ll have some discussions on more specifics like cost range and where that needs to be. But I think we’ll be able to work through that as a board.”