Half a dozen school board and Vote Yes committee members joined just one community member made up the JWP referendum meeting in Waldorf Wednesday night.
“I think that’s part of the problem, we over-communicate, make the people feel well-informed, that’s why I think were not having a ton of turnout,” Superintendent Bill Adams said.
The plan for the referendum is to renew the existing operating levy that was originally approved in 2011; it would stay in place the next 10 years. This means, according to referendum material, that taxes will not be raised for those community members in the JWP school district because it’s already on the tax rolls.
A referendum defeat would, in effect, result in a tax decrease but it would only amount to a reduction of about $36 a month for a $150,000 house. A defeat, according to JWP school officials and Vote Yes committee members, would result in a 13 percent reduction in the district’s operating budget and program cuts.
This breaks down to a potential $1.2 million budget reduction and possibly staff reduction of up to 20 teachers cut across the district, school officials say. This would likely result in larger class sizes and a diminished learning environment, according to school officials.
Referendum material reports passage would allow the students to stay in smaller classes without having to be bussed to larger school districts like Mankato or Waseca. It would also encourage teacher retention and support innovative programs such as science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), and would also allow for JWP to stay competitive with surrounding schools by keeping the college in schools program going.
“It’s been really, really positive; I mean each meeting is positive,” Adams said of the feedback he has been hearing from residents about the referendum.
The JWP enrollment growth has continued in the past six years, growing from 575 to current numbers of 673 students.
“We want to be the local public school choice for families looking for top-quality education for their children,” Adams said.
He mentioned he has not heard negative feedback about the referendum thus far and credits that to the district’s informational campaign and transparency to the community. There is a Facebook page, a website, the district application and a Twitter feed in which school officials are posting referendum information.
District officials also plan to start live streaming board meetings, too, to continue to inform the public.
Adams mentioned he has something scheduled to come out every single day on Facebook about the referendum all the way up to the Nov. 6 vote. It will be more data and information and pointing people to their referendum website that currently has 3,010 hits.
The funds from the levy passed in 2011, according to referendum material, allowed the district to invest in teachers, academic programs, technology and restore the district’s financial health. The referendum will also allow JWP to retain the personalized learning educational philosophy that is currently being used in the district, Adams reported.
The Vote Yes committee members say the group had 100 signs when they started campaigning earlier this year for the referendum and have since run out. The newest initiative committee members are conducting is having people wrap a blue ribbon around a tree in their yard or have them change an outdoor light to blue to show support for the referendum and the district.
Katie Cahill, a JWP School Board member, and her husband Mike, used blue tape to write “Vote Yes” on their garage door, she said.