The WB School referendum meeting yielded a good chunk of information. Bart Williams, an area resident, gave a power point presentation that got to the heart of the renovations that were necessary and reduced the expenditure to $34M. This guy was amazing. He took a humble approach, yet was educated and confident, listening to questions, answering with valid, fact-filled answers, and had done his homework - extensively.
Here are Mr. Williams' 10 KEY IDEAS:
1. To date, there has not been presented to the public any comprehensive and conclusive study showing a direct link between age of buildings and academic achievement.
2. Just six months ago (Nov. 2007), residents of this district voted down by almost a 2-to-1 margin a $119.3 million facilities referendum.
3. Innovative ideas designed to help U.S. public education remain competitive with the rest of the world should be seriously considered as part of any long-term facilities plan.
4. A solid majority of adult District residents do not have children under 18 and, therefore, do not have students in our public school; however, the public money you are considering spending is every bit as much theirs as it is those who have children in our District's schools.
5. Even despite this parents-of-school-age-children bias, that same survey shows that additional facilities space did not even make the top five out of 10 priorities lists as "most important" to all survey respondents on the topic of facility factors at all sites.
6. It is critically important to distinguish between true facilities needs vs. "wants" or "nice to haves."
7. These are tough economic times, and the relatively low-population (i.e., 30,000 people in West Bend, and less than that in each of our other municipalities and towns), conservative community that is our District is now even less likely to support the largest referendum in Wisconsin history.
8. People care about their TOTAL property bill, not simply the West Bend Joint School District #1 component of it.
9. Ill-advised, overpriced referenda needlessly divide the community and delay progress on fixing our schools.
10. The Board should provide full and timely disclosure of the total, fully-loaded costs (i.e., with all 20 years of the bond interest expense added up, in addition to paying off the bonds' principal) of all referendum options. This would also include the interest rate used in calculating that fully-loaded cost figure.
Williams further explained the top three goals that should be considered with this referendum:
1. Safe and secure schools.
2. Securing front entrances at all schools.
3. Fiscally rresponsible operations of the buildings
Williams' proposed referendum revision saves the taxpayers approximately $100M and efficiently addresses the top three priorities on the school board's agenda for the schools in our district.
After Williams' presentation, the board did some picking apart, but Williams held his own, appearing fully prepared. He made note of the costly and inappropriate survey sent out by the school board (kudos!), and also made it known that the school board did not fully cooperate in giving him the information he required to solidify his revised referendum proposal.
There was a solid turnout of citizens, most of whom applauded Williams at the end of his presentation to the school board. It appeared that the only people in opposition to the lower price tag on the referendum was a gentleman from the Jackson Village Board and another man I did not recognize. There was plenty of noise from the audience concerning the expense of the current referendum, and nearly everyone who spoke showed appreciation to Mr. Williams for his efforts.
Our most gracious thanks to this gentleman and his wife for all of their hard work on behalf of the taxpayers in the West Bend School District!
Taxpayers who may be reading this post should consider attending the next committee meeting to hear Mr. Williams' next revised presentation, which he has stated he will do to include some of the issues brought up by the school board tonight. He is candid, easy to understand and is very organized. When thanked for his presentation after the meeting, he told me that it is all worth it if the taxpayers genuinely respond to his time-consuming efforts. He feels the referendum should be something the West Bend taxpayers WANT to support.