At the October 26, 2016 STMA School Board Candidates Forum hosted by North Wright County Today and the STMA Women of Today, there were a couple moments of candor from two incumbents that should have STMA voters questioning the upcoming referendum, and frankly, questioning the school board as well.
The first moment of candor came when board member Drew Scherber was asked why the referendum was compiled into a massive $36 Million single-question, rather than splitting the academic needs from the various sports complexes. His answer:
“Each board member – six of us – decided it would be better served by the community if it was one question. Two questions won’t pass I don’t think. It’s very tough to have two questions pass. I know some people are against that. But that’s the reason we went for it.”
Did you get that? The board members know that if the academic needs and sports complexes are put to a vote separately, they will not both pass. Knowing what we know about how people vote for the education needs of their children, we can extrapolate that what Scherber was saying was, “The education portion would pass; the sports portion would fail.” So we can see clearly that the board intentionally combined academic needs and what many taxpayers believe are sports luxuries together in a single question, thereby making it difficult for voters who support academic investment to vote against the referendum, even if they oppose the sports luxuries.
The second moment of candor was even more revealing. Speaking of the board’s reasoning behind scheduling the referendum for February when voters are at peak-election fatigue after the November election, candidate Brian Reinbold actually said:
“We have to be politically savvy to get what we need done. If we just do it in the general election, most likely you know what would happen. It would get voted down.”
Folks; STMA voters: this is inexcusable. It is cynical and manipulative. By shooting for the moon with this massive $36 Million single-question referendum, and scheduling it in an off-year, outside the election season, the STMA School Board is intentionally trying to bypass the general electorate – those people who turnout around 60% in November during an election year – and instead have this important decision made by a tiny minority of voters who will bother to show up in February, the majority of whom are organized in favor of the referendum, and who are having their wish-list fulfilled by its passage. This referendum deserves to fail on that basis alone.
There is a burgeoning movement in STMA opposed to this referendum in its current form. Many taxpayers believe that this “Hail Mary” bomb thrown by the STMA school board is fiscally irresponsible, and we understand that scheduling it as a massive proposal outside the normal election cycle is a political tactic meant to maximize the likelihood of its passage and minimize opposition.
Those of us who are opposed are months and even years behind in organizing compared to the forces who have been working to bring this referendum to fruition. But we are organizing in the final hour. We have no funding; no formal group; but we are organizing at “STMA February 7th Referendum: Vote NO $36 Million”.
To be sure, many of us have concerns and/or questions regarding the specifics of this referendum related to unsustainable debt, 6-year interest-only payments, the unclear nature of the “60% matching state funds” claim, the dubious “need” for all the sports luxuries, and the seeming lack of a feasibility or cost/revenue study. But for now, our goals are simple:
A) Create the awareness necessary to defeat this referendum in its current form.
B)Compel the STMA school board to split academic needs from sporting proposals, AND to re-examine the proposed sports facilities with an eye on fiscal responsibility that addresses the realities of our debt picture and the tax base of the STMA district, rather than trying to compete with surrounding districts that have much lower debt and a much greater retail and industrial tax base.
C) Finally we seek to have these split referendums scheduled in a regular November election cycle, in order to encourage the greatest participation possible from taxpayers.
We TRUST the taxpayers of STMA to come up with a solution that is equitable, realistic, and takes into account the views of all citizens who care. That is why we advocate the defeat of this referendum, subsequently splitting it into its component parts, and scheduling it for maximum voter turnout during a regular election cycle. Only then can everyone say that the will of the voters has been truly expressed. Join us on Facebook.
Paul Miller (representing STMA February 7th Referendum: Vote NO $36 Million)
St. Michael, MN