East Troy schools referendum for improvements, auditorium resurfaces
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Part of the East Troy School District referendum includes a renovation of the current band room. Terry Mayer photo.
EAST TROY -- In November, supporters adjusted their helmets, dug in their cleats and took a mighty swing -- and missed.
The East Troy Community School District’s $17.2 million building and facility upgrade referendum failed by a 53 percent to 47 percent margin, sending district administrators, school board members and the rest of their team back to the dugout, scratching their heads as to how they didn’t hit that one out of the park.
(Read all of this week's stories from Walworth County Sunday HERE. )
However, these officials spent the next two months poring over statistics and executing what they hope was a better game plan. Voters will decide April 2 whether or not it’s a hit this time.
The revised referendum, at a proposed price tag of $19 million, focuses on updates to the high school included in the original proposal, security upgrades throughout the district, construction of a bus drop-off loop at Prairie View Elementary School to alleviate traffic congestion and maintenance to keep Leona Doubek Elementary School operational.
Everything from the first attempt remained, except for $500,000 in athletic capital improvements, as phase one of the district’s $41 million long-range plan that a 28-member ad-hoc Facilities Advisory Committee developed last summer.
The most expensive piece, and likely the most controversial, is a $9.5 million auditorium.
School board members Brian Wexler and Dawn Buchholtz, who are running for re-election April 2 against Charles Harwood and Ted Zess, said the effort failed because supporters didn’t do a good enough job of educating the public, and they are confident that this trip to the batter’s box will produce a favorable outcome.
“I was part of the ad-hoc committee, and we did a ton of research and looked at a lot of options in figuring out how to best address our district’s needs,” said Wexler, who’s been president for eight of his 12 years on the board. “We knew that we couldn’t tackle the long-range plan all at once, so we had to decide how to split it up in moving forward. One thing we did was to add $1.35 million to address severe needs at Doubek.
“But after the November decision, the five of us on the board agreed that we had not done a good enough job in advertising and grass-roots marketing,” Wexler said. “We heard from a lot of people who hadn’t even heard about the referendum or that an auditorium was part of the plan. So we needed to intensify our efforts and take a more comprehensive approach. We needed to have a more efficient, effective way.”
Buchholtz agreed that better communication was necessary in reaching out to more people, who would see an estimated debt service tax levy increase of $30 on a $150,000 home with the new proposal.
“And there was a certain amount of complacency … we haven’t had a referendum since 1997 (to build Prairie View) and people figured the schools have been functioning pretty well,” Buchholtz said. “But this is a whole different environment and market with open enrollment.”
So, organizers created a campaign that featured fliers and a website (www.yesforeasttroy.org). And they’ve taken to social media arenas to answer questions, as well as concerns.
Two key supporters on that front have been the husband-wife duo of Tim and Sue Griffin, who have spearheaded the Yes For East Troy group’s activities.
“A bunch of concerned citizens got this thing going last fall after the first referendum went down,” Sue Griffin said. “We strongly believe in the school district and what the board is trying to accomplish, so we decided to pull together and try to get the word out.”
Tim Griffin said there should be no reason for residents not to make an educated decision this time around.
Read the complete story in the March 17 print or e-edition of Walworth County Sunday.