The Batavia school district may add the recently voted down $140 million referendum question to the April 4 ballot.
The matter was discussed during the Dec. 20 school board meeting, after the referendum was voted down by a vote of 7,060 to 7,035 in the Nov. 8 general election.
After the narrow defeat, the district sent a survey to residents for feedback. Superintendent Lisa Hichens said that 1,718 people responded to the survey, which closed on Dec. 15.
According to district documents, feedback was also collected through interviews and focus groups.
One question on the survey asked community members whether or not they believe the referendum question should be added to the April 4 election ballot, Hichens said.
“As close as the margins were in November, it’s still pretty close,” she said. “[The survey] shows that 56% of the people think it would be a good idea to put something on the April ballot.”
The referendum would allow for funding for major changes to district facilities, including the demolition and replacement of H.C. Storm and Louise White elementary schools.
Prior to the November election, the school board hosted four community engagement sessions providing the public information about the referendum, according to the Chief Financial Officer Anton Inglese.
“The people participating in those community engagement sessions did dwindle off. We were kind of facing a certain inertia,” Inglese said. “Should we put this question on the ballot again, it’ll be a little easier.”
“The fact that this many people didn’t feel that they had their hands on the right information, I think we need to do better,” Hichens said.
Inglese said the April 4 election would be the last opportunity to approve the question before the bond and interest tax levy is paid off.
“The next election, which will be in November of 2024, will be too late for the board to issue bonds in such a fashion where taxes wouldn’t go up,” he said.
Inglese said that the board is not bound to adding the same question to the April vote.
“We could modify the plan, we could ask for more, ask for less. We can modify the plan in any shape or form,” he said.
According to documents, the board will vote on adding the question to the April 4 ballot in January.
“We’ll talk to anyone,” Hichens said. “That’s what we feel – we owe every single person in this community a conversation.”