Building Public Support for

Report
REFERENDUM FOR ELECTORAL DEBT
• Local Government Unit Debt Act:
• Department of Community and Economic
Development
• PA Law – 53 Pa.C.S. Sections 8041-8049
OPTIONS UNDER THE DEBT ACT:
Electoral Debt:
• Board authority to incur debt within borrowing limits
Non-Electoral Debt:
• Board may incur additional debt if:
•
•
•
•
Majority of voters approve in a referendum
Proceeds used for a defined project
Mills reduced/eliminated when debt is paid
Allows board to exceed Act 1 index
STEPS FOR ELECTORAL DEBT
1. Adopt resolution - 90 days of election.
2. Advertise Election – not less than 14, nor more than
21 days before election (newspaper, legal journal)
3. Present Ballot Question to County Board of Elections:
a. Specific language
b. At least 45 days before election
TYPES OF ELECTION
Regular Scheduled by County – No Cost to District:
Municipal
General
Primary
Special – District incurs all costs:
As defined by board (assumes notification requirements)
BALLOT QUESTION
Shall debt in the sum of $47,900,000 for
the purpose of financing construction of
a new high school be authorized to be
incurred as debt approved by the
electors?
• May not use alternate wording
• May note “and other capital projects”
AFTER THE VOTE
If yes:
• Issue debt
• Spend debt only on projects defined in question
• Increase millage above Index
• Decrease when debt paid off
If no:
• Seek additional referendum – 155 days or more after election
• Issue non-electoral debt within debt limit (tax increase within Act
1 limit)
• Delay, refinance, or cancel project
REFERENDUM – ROUND 1
Shall debt of Unionville-Chadds Ford School District,
Chester and Delaware Counties, Pennsylvania, be
authorized to be incurred as debt approved by the
electors in the sum of up to Sixty-Two Million Five
Hundred Thousand Dollars ($62,500,000) for the
purpose of renovations and additions to Unionville
High School and its campus?
Regular Election
YES 40.2% (3,979) NO 59.8% (4,755)
49.5% Voter Turnout
REFERENDUM – ROUND 2
Shall debt of Unionville-Chadds Ford School District,
Chester and Delaware Counties, Pennsylvania, be
authorized to be incurred as debt approved by the
electors in the sum of up to Thirty Million Dollars
($30,000,000) for the purpose of renovations and
additions to Unionville High School and its
campus?
Regular Election
YES 45.6% (3,222) NO 54.4% (4,791)
59.97% Voter Turnout
REFERENDUM – ROUND 1
•
Comprehensive K-12 Plan
•
Included athletic facilities
•
$117,000,000
•
Special election
•
Designs and elevations developed
•
“Yes” votes energized … but so were “no” votes
•
Defeated 72% to 28%
REFERENDUM – ROUND 2
Focused on common ground from first referendum … New High School
 Eliminated “moving parts”
Held community forums
Acknowledged public input when appropriate:
 No additional architect fees
 No special election
 Eliminated “hot buttons”
 Modified design
Defeated – 52% to 48% (176 votes)
OBSERVATION
Two approaches to referendum:
1.
Sell the project board/administration develops to voters, or
2.
Ask the voters what they can support and develop project
around those expectations
LESSON #1
Every decision is impacted when a referendum is
pending:
Annual budget
Contract negotiations
Conference attendance
Customer service
LESSON #2
Keep it simple …
 Then make it more simple
 Define acronyms, terms, Acts
 Assume zero knowledge … but don’t “talk down”
 Minimum information as part of presentation – but:
Anticipate questions (state reimbursement, zoning
issues, PSERS rate, etc.)
LESSON #3
Don’t assume support (or lack thereof) from:
Teachers
Parents
Senior citizens
LESSON #4
Consider community standards in your
presentations:
Too flashy?
Too tacky?
LESSON #5
Less is more:
 Remove excess “moving parts”
 Focus on most important item – example: overcrowded
conditions
 Avoid temptation to answer every question – “I don’t
know” or “I can’t predict” is acceptable
 Ability to say “we haven’t decided … what do you
think?”
LESSON #6
Stick to the facts, don’t:
Embellish
Criticize previous board decisions
Predict
LESSON #7
Remove reasons to vote “no:”
 Athletics
 Impact to low-income tax payers
 Perceptions of excess (“weight room” vs. “fitness
center;” “art classroom” vs. “art studio,” etc.)
 Architect fees
LESSON #8
Consider “customer service” impact when developing
procedures:
 Right to Know requests
 “Live” person vs. automated attendant
 Board meetings
LESSON #9
Recognize that matters beyond your control may
occur:
Poor economy
Election day weather
Stealth campaign
Placement of question on ballot
LESSON #10
Even if no referendum on the horizon; never too early to:
 Listen
 Give credit to community, others
 Improve relations
 Build community support/understanding
 Identify key communicators – including opposition:
 Develop communication links:
E-mail list, breakfasts, community events
LESSON #11
If you anticipate referendum - plan early
 Develop strategy:
 Sell vs. listen
 Large vs. small
 Once vs. multiple
 Prepare to modify plans – incorporate ideas because “we
heard you say …”
 Communicate message – then repeat
LESSON #12
Plan what you will do if campaign is not successful:
• If options truly do exist
• If no options exist
SUMMARY
Voter support of a referendum for building projects is
possible:
 As referendum becomes more common
 Where public trust is in place
 As districts develop and implement PR strategies
CONTACT INFORMATION:
Amy J. Swartz, PRSBA
Rich Hug, PRSBO
Business Administrator
Director of Technology & Communications
Donegal School District
Unionville-Chadds Ford School District
1051 Koser Road
740 Unionville Road
Mount Joy, PA 17552
Kennett Square, PA 19348
(717) 492-1305
(610) 347-0970
[email protected]
[email protected]

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