Top Monroe educators ‘disappointed’ with Tuesday night’s referendum results

BY Christopher Lang, Correspondent, @topherlang2, MonroeNow, March 13, 2019

MONROE – A day after voters said “no” to expanding the high school and building a second middle school, the acting superintendent and board president said they were “disappointed” that the proposals were defeated.

“As a district we were extremely disappointed with the results,” said acting Superintendent Robert Goodall. “The need for additional facilities remains unchanged. The district and administration and board of education will formalize a plan to address our increasing enrollment and consider the impact on our taxpayers.”

Township residents rejected both proposals by approximately 1,000 votes each, which for the middle school was a significant increase over last year’s referendum defeat. The 2018 middle school proposal was defeated by a little more than 100 votes.

“I think this surprised us all last night,” said Kathy Kolupanowich, Board of Education president, about the middle school results compared to last year. “We had had hoped going into last night, we had high hopes, that we would prevail at least at the middle school level knowing that both projects together cost a lot of money.”

The two projects’ price tag was $146.1 million. The new middle school would have cost taxpayers $75.6 million and the high school addition $71.1 million. The average yearly increase for both projects was $92.76 per $100,000 of assessed property value. However, the high school addition only had a chance of passing if voters supported the middle school, based on how the ballot questions were created. More stories about the $146.1M referendum

The high school addition’s fate was purposely linked to the middle school because the middle school was deemed the top priority.

“A little surprised, but we see it as we asked the public to approve a very large project, two projects, and [make] a very large investment in the school district and we gave them a choice and in our communications and presentations let them know that the focus was on the middle school,” said Goodall. “The presence of the high school this year didn’t bring people out to vote in favor.”

The school board’s next meeting is March 18, but it’s not likely much will happen regarding the defeated proposal.

“I think it’s too early to talk about our next step. I think we have to take a step back and digest the results from last night and come up with some kind of plan that we hope the public supports and that might take a while for us to do that,” said Kolupanowich.

At this point education officials do not have a reason as to why the proposal failed, but noted the price and also “misinformation” being spread on social media as likely contributing factors.  

“I think there’s a lot of misinformation going around the township through social media and I don’t think we were able to get our message across on social media as we as we had hoped we would,” she said. “And there was a lot of concerns with the growth of Monroe Township and the tax impact and that’s understandable.”

The defeat means that students will remain in the temporary classroom trailers for at least an extra year and that those may be extended to the high school. 

“We’re just disappointed,” she said. “… there will be a need to add trailers to our district and they’re only good for five years and we have to have a plan in the place. So that’s what we’re going to be doing hopefully sometime in the next few months.”

Though the conversations about adding new trailers may start in in the next few months, she noted that a decision would likely not be made until next year during the 2020-2021 budget process.

“I am very thankful to my central office team, the board of education, the MTEA and the many community members who rallied to promote the projects and stress the importance to residents that these are much needed facilities,” said Goodall. “This problem is not going away. There are over 1,400 unhoused students in this district and we need to build school facilities.”