Residents who opposed the Clinton School District’s $41.9 million facilities referendum said Wednesday that the price tag and tax impact were too high.
The April 2 referendum failed by about 18 percentage points. It would have closed the elementary and middle schools—which each are more than 60 years old—and built a new 4-year-old kindergarten through sixth-grade campus on district-owned land next to Clinton High School.
It also would have allocated several million dollars for upgrades at the high school, including a new roof, gym floor, asphalt repairs, security enhancements and expansions to the agriculture and technical education programs.
Ronna Morton-Ballmer, a substitute teacher, was one of several residents who explained their opposition to the referendum during a public comment period at Wednesday’s school board meeting.
She said property taxes are already too high for many residents. She pays about $5,000 annually on her modest two-story home, she said, and the referendum would have tacked on more.
“This referendum pitted family members against family members, neighbors against neighbors, staff members against staff members,” Morton-Ballmer said. “... This is not Clinton. This is not us.”
She said the referendum “held merit” with its expansions of the technical education and agriculture programs. Downsizing buildings also has value, she said, but it was difficult to support the measure “without seeing an actual plan.”
She also said it would be tough to lose the stage and gymnasium in the middle school. New stages are not the same, she said, and the decades-old building still has a lot of use left.
District officials said Wednesday they will assess the district’s next steps in coming weeks.
Superintendent Jim Brewer told about 30 people in attendance that the district still has pressing facilities needs, such as its timeworn elementary and middle schools.
Those buildings are in poor condition, he said, and consolidating them will save money over time. He reminded the crowd that district officials had been fleshing out the referendum plan for two years.
Brewer displayed a news release from 2017 about the district’s facilities study. He said 171 opportunities were available to help residents understand the needs behind the referendum before the April 2 election, including facility tours and school board meetings.
Brewer said the school board’s committees will meet soon to discuss what to do next. If the board wanted to pursue another referendum, the earliest it could put one on the ballot would be spring 2020, he said.
In January, Bob Butler, the district’s director of facilities and transportation, said the elementary and middle schools no longer meet “educational adequacy.”
He said they contain asbestos, lack security and are not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Each building’s heating pipes are crumbling, and each has high groundwater, he said.