JOHNSON CREEK — The Johnson Creek School District’s facilities referendum was soundly defeated in Tuesday’s election by a vote of 1,240 votes to 575.
Residents of the Johnson Creek School District had their chance Tuesday to cast their votes relating to a comprehensive 4K through grade 12 solution for school facilities needs that would have been designed, according to its proponents, to meet the needs of all students today and in the foreseeable future.
According to district leaders, the proposal, developed as a long-term solution, involved constructing a new school on district-owned land on County Highway B, just west of the village. All grade levels and the district office would have been relocated, and the existing buildings, along with portable classrooms, would have been demolished.
The existing site would have been sold, with proceeds used to reduce cost to taxpayers, district officials said. The proposed project cost was $29,325,000, which would have translated to an estimated annual tax increase of $3.88 per thousand of fair market property value. For a property valued at $200,000, the cost would have been approximately $65 a month.
Johnson Creek School District Administrator Michael Garvey said this morning he was disappointed with the outcome, but it doesn’t mean the district’s facilities needs are going away. He said the school board and an administrative team will be addressing the needs of the district again soon.
He said the defeat, and the manner in which he said it was achieved, is a source of frustration to him.
“I get frustrated, because we have folks who organize on the ‘no’ side and put together some pretty misleading things,” Garvey said. “We understand it is a big impact and if that is truly what the vote was on, then great. But if it was based on misleading information, then that frustrates me.”
Garvey said some people in the community who have been against the referendum, engaged in what he termed “scare-mongering” to see it defeated.
“There were some calculations made that were inaccurate. There were some documents that I saw with calculations on per-person costs of the project and instead of using the mill rate, they did their own calculations based on the population of the village rather than the school district,” he said.
He added that other scare-tactics involved apartment dwellers being told they would automatically see rent increases if the referendum were to pass.
“There were statements made in print that people would lose their homes due to exorbitant taxes if the referendum passed,” Garvey said. “Those participating groups have a mission of preventing a school from being built here and it’s more of a philosophical mission. There is an opposition in places to public education being paid for with tax dollars and some of these people believe it is unconstitutional. But that is the funding system in which I have to operate and that is part of our freedoms ... The referendum was a big question and a big impact.”
Garvey said district administrators and school board members will go right back to the drawing board to see if they can get an updated facility for the community.
“We are working on picking a date now for another meeting and that could happen in the next few weeks,” he said. “We will do a debriefing and see where we are going.”