The Douglas County School District is moving forward with plans to educate the community about its financial needs, which include hundreds of millions of dollars in capital improvements. The goal is to get a pair of questions requesting more tax money on the 2018 ballot.
During its April 4 meeting, the board of education voted 7-0 to approve a resolution for a joint subcommittee to work with the superintendent and district staff to formulate and execute a plan to explain the need for new tax measures for the district.
In March, the subcommittee, which comprises members of the District Accountability Committee, Long Range Planning Committee and Fiscal Oversight Committee, advocated for putting a bond measure and mill levy override question on the November 2018 ballot.
The group will now work with interim Superintendent Erin Kane and district staff to devise the best ways to reach out to the community, which voted against measures seeking more money for schools the previous two times questions were put on the ballot, in 2008 and 2011.
“We have to get moving toward the ultimate goal of a potential bond and mill in 2018 and this is just giving them the authority to move forward on doing the work of educating the community,” Board member Wendy Vogel said.
There had been discussion about possibly working to put a ballot measure on this year's ballot. But the committee said one benefit of waiting until 2018 is that the ballot will include the governor's race, which likely will increase voter turnout. Also, waiting a year would provide time to gather community support. In addition, they concluded it was best to not ask the community for a tax increase during the school board election in 2017, as it would become a campaign issue.
In recent years, the district has faced funding shortages and rising capital needs at schools across the district.
In 2015, the Long Range Planning Committee — a group of community members and parents who study the district's capital needs — estimated the cost at $275.1 million for current and future projects over five years. The committee identified the following major areas of need: facility reinvestment $133.6 million; technology, $53 million; and new construction to accommodate growth, $38.8 million.
Kane said she hopes together they can “create a plan to make sure we are able to effectively communicate the financial and capital state of the district to the community.”
Board of Education Vice President Judith Reynolds said the committee needs to talk to the community about “the needs of the school district and not the desires of the board of education.”
Board member David Ray agreed, saying “our community really needs to drive this initiative.”