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Colfax school board reviews referendum resolutions

By LeAnn R. Ralph

COLFAX  —  To be prepared for the July 18 meeting, the Colfax Board of Education held a special meeting July 12 to review resolutions for the $7.2 million referendum planned for the November election.

Todd Kragness, school board president, said he had called the special meeting to allow Board of Education members all of the time they needed to review the resolutions and ask questions ahead of the July 18 meeting, which will include an audit review and a budget review along with the regular meeting.

Consideration of the resolutions for the referendum was included on the published agenda for the July 18 Board of Education meeting.

The first resolution would authorize the issuance of general obligation bonds in an amount not to exceed $7.2 million.

The second resolution would authorize proceeding with a referendum on the question of the initial resolution to issue $7.2 million in general obligation bonds.

Yes or no

Bill Yingst, school district administrator, told the Board of Education he had worked with the law firm of Quarles & Brady LLP to develop the two resolutions.

A draft of the official referendum ballot also was included in the school board packet.

Yingst said he wanted the referendum question to be as straight-forward as possible so that voters in the district would know what they are being asked to approve.

Some referendum questions are so convoluted that marking “yes” on the ballot means the voter is actually voting against the question, and marking “no” on the ballot means the voter is voting for the question, he noted.

Question

The draft of the referendum question reads as follows: “Shall the School District of Colfax, Chippewa and Dunn Counties, Wisconsin, be authorized to issue pursuant to Chapter 67 of the Wisconsin Statutes, general obligation bonds in an amount not to exceed $7.2 million for the purpose of paying the cost of a District-wide school improvement program consisting of additions, renovations, and remodeling for classroom space and technical education/STEM expansion; safety, security and building infrastructure improvements; demolition of temporary classrooms; construction of a bus maintenance building and replacement of buses; and acquisition of furnishings, fixtures and equipment?”

STEM

School board member Ken Bjork wondered if “STEM” should be spelled out in the referendum question to include Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.

The November election is a presidential election, and a large voter turn-out is expected.

Since many people will likely vote in the November election, some of those people may not be as familiar with the school referendum question or terms used by educators, Bjork said.

“We don’t want to confuse voters who may not be familiar with the term. STEM? What’s that? Are they planting some trees?” Bjork said.

Other members of the Board of Education agreed that spelling out STEM would help clarify the question for voters.

Timeline

To be included on the November 8 ballot, the Board of Education must approve the initial resolution and the referendum resolution on or before August 27.

Ballot language must be delivered to the person responsible for printing ballots and provided to the county clerk on or before August 30.

Within ten days of the Board of Education approving the resolutions, a Notice to Electors must be published and a notice must be sent to the state Department of Public Instruction.

By September 17, the ballots must be printed and delivered to the municipal clerks, and a copy of the ballot must also be sent to the school district’s bond counsel.

On october 5, a Type A Election Notice must be published by the school district. Municipal clerks must publish a Type E Election notice.

On November 2, combined Type B and Type C election notices must be published by the school district, including the facsimile ballot. Municipal clerks must publish a Type D election notice.

The referendum will be held on November 8, and the Board of Canvassers must meet to certify the election no later than 9 a.m. November 15.

What is legal?

Yingst also reviewed information with the Board of Education concerning legal and illegal activity associated with the referendum.

School district funds cannot be used for promotional materials asking voters to vote “yes” or “no” on the referendum question.

School district funds can, however, be used to print informational material.

Board of Education members are free to speak either for or against the referendum question.

The district administrator cannot tell people to vote “yes” or “no” on the referendum question. The district administrator is allowed to give information about the referendum and the proposed projects.

Members of the administration in the school district cannot campaign for or against the referendum question during the work day while they are employed by the school district, but they can campaign for or against the referendum when they are on their own time and not at work.

Citizens groups can ask people to support or deny the referendum question.

Any committees or groups campaigning for or against the referendum question must remain separate from the school district.

Bjork noted that Board of Education members should not be complacent about the referendum question.

“We should remember that approval by the voters is not a foregone conclusion,” he said.