01STOCK_SCHOOL_2

JANESVILLE

A sample roadmap for a fall 2020 referendum proposes seven months of community meetings, surveys, social media campaigning and mailers—all of it taking place before the Janesville School Board decides whether it wants to go to referendum.

That sample roadmap comes from the Donavan Group, a consulting firm the board will consider hiring at its Tuesday meeting.

The firm, which specialize in school communications, has helped school districts pass more than $638 million in capital and operational referendums, according to a memo from school district Chief Financial Officer Dan McCrea to Superintendent Steve Pophal. The memo was provided as part of the school board meeting packet.

The firm would charge $30,000 plus printing and postage for surveys.

The consulting group, if approved, proposes to begin its work immediately.

Both the Donavan Group’s sample roadmap and a draft referendum timeline provided by district officials show extensive work being done in the next seven months.

The vote on whether to go to referendum would be in August.

The board has talked about going to referendum to cover its maintenance needs. A report from Unesco, a Madison-based management firm, outlined $120.43 million in projects—needs ranging from replacement of aging boilers to asbestos abatement.

Of those projects, about $77.84 million are in the “alert” or “alarm” category.

For the past several years, the board has been doing some of the projects, but now they’ve hit a funding wall.

It’s unknown how much money the board would seek at referendum—or even if the board will agree to go to referendum.

The district’s draft timeline lists items such as “establish community engagement strategy and tactics” and “key stakeholder feedback” for December and January. The next two months would include “community engagement sessions,” and April and May would include a community survey.

The Donovan Group’s sample timeline starts this month with “finalize message points,” “create a referendum webpage” and “begin social media campaign.”

Given those proposals and given the recommendation to hire a consultant, is a referendum likely?

“Generally speaking, the recommendation to hire a consultant is not to decide to go or not go to referendum, but to truly engage the community in a dialogue about the current situation regarding school district facilities, the need to maintain the mechanicals of our buildings in an efficient way and maintain safe and secure learning environments to help children thrive,” district spokesman Patrick Gasper wrote in an email to The Gazette.

The consultant, if approved by the board, “will help the community and the board come to a consensus about the direction the community wishes the school district of Janesville to go,” Gasper wrote.

It’s possible, he wrote, the community would not be willing to support any kind of referendum.

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