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BUILDING PUBLIC SUPPORT FOR A SUCCESSFUL REFERENDUM.

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Presentation on theme: "BUILDING PUBLIC SUPPORT FOR A SUCCESSFUL REFERENDUM."— Presentation transcript:

1 BUILDING PUBLIC SUPPORT FOR A SUCCESSFUL REFERENDUM

2 REFERENDUM FOR ELECTORAL DEBT Local Government Unit Debt Act: Department of Community and Economic Development PA Law – 53 Pa.C.S. Sections

3 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

4 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

5 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)

6 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”

7 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

8 A TALE OF TWO CAMPAIGNS: UNIONVILLE-CHADDS FORD

9 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

10 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

11 A TALE OF TWO CAMPAIGNS: DONEGAL SCHOOL DISTRICT

12 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%

13 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)

14 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

15 LESSON #1 Every decision is impacted when a referendum is pending:  Annual budget  Contract negotiations  Conference attendance  Customer service

16 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.)

17 LESSON #3 Don’t assume support (or lack thereof) from:  Teachers  Parents  Senior citizens

18 LESSON #4 Consider community standards in your presentations:  Too flashy?  Too tacky?

19 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?”

20 LESSON #6 Stick to the facts, don’t:  Embellish  Criticize previous board decisions  Predict

21 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

22 LESSON #8 Consider “customer service” impact when developing procedures:  Right to Know requests  “Live” person vs. automated attendant  Board meetings

23 LESSON #9 Recognize that matters beyond your control may occur:  Poor economy  Election day weather  Stealth campaign  Placement of question on ballot

24 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:  list, breakfasts, community events

25 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

26 LESSON #12 Plan what you will do if campaign is not successful: If options truly do exist If no options exist

27 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

28 Amy J. Swartz, PRSBA Business Administrator Donegal School District 1051 Koser Road Mount Joy, PA (717) Rich Hug, PRSBO Director of Technology & Communications Unionville-Chadds Ford School District 740 Unionville Road Kennett Square, PA (610) CONTACT INFORMATION:


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