Referendum passes by overwhelming margin

By : 
David Phillips and Gretchen Mensink Lovejoy

Voters in the Kingsland School District overwhelmingly approved an operating levy referendum in a strong turnout for a special election Tuesday, Nov. 5.

A total of 930 voters, or 64.1 percent, voted in favor of the question on the ballot. There were 520 voting no and one ballot that had no choice.

Also, Noella Lund was elected to the School Board with 1,180 votes. She was the only candidate on the ballot, although there were 97 write-in votes. Lund will replace Leah Stier, who was temporarily filling a vacancy on the board.

The special election drew 1,451 voters, or nearly half the registered voters in the district. There were 3,139 registered voters when the polls opened with 73 new registrants during the day. The school was the only local unit of government to have an election on the off year.

Kingsland Superintendent Jim Hecimovich said he was impressed with the number of people who went to the polls, adding the turnout speaks to community involvement for the Kingsland community and civic responsibility of local residents.

“I think that resounding ‘yes’ shows that people understood our message that ‘levies are for learning, bonds are for building,’ and with nearly half of the eligible voters in the district coming out to vote, when you take a look at that, it’s (impressive),” he said. “It’s a 10-year gift, and now we can start fulfilling the promises we made to the community. It’s truly a gift. I thank those who voted for it, and for those who voted ‘no,’ I respect their opinions.”

School officials attended meetings for every local unit of government in the district, visited with local civic groups and hosted a hearing prior to a regular School Board meeting recently.

The measure will revoke the existing $852 per pupil unit levy and replace it with a new $1,566 levy. A calculator from the district shows that the estimated monthly impact on a home with a market value of $100,000 would be $13.73. The median home value in 2016 for Spring Valley was $107,836 and for Wykoff $86,158.

During informational meetings, district officials said the operating levy will allow the district to maintain operations, including new and current programs such as construction, agriculture, College in the Schools courses and an elementary school Action 100 reading program. The funds will also be used for instructional material.

If the referendum had failed, officials noted the district would soon exhaust the current fund balance provided by the prior levy. Instead of the district looking at statutory operating debt, meaning local control would have been surrendered to the state to develop a plan to get the district out of debt, officials can move ahead with planning, Hecimovich said.

“The key to this is that now it allows us to do some fine-tuning to our planning,” he said. “We did some gross planning – reading, math, the trades – and now, we can put pencil to paper and see how we can do fine-tuning in the next year or so. We have equipment that needs replacing in ag and industrial tech, and in reading and math, we need to update curriculum.

“This is truly a gift. That’s how I view it,” he said.