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House of Representatives
Session of 2019 - 2020 Regular Session


Posted: December 13, 2018 09:25 AM
From: Representative Garth D. Everett
To: All House members
Subject: Ballot Referendum for School Building Projects
In the near future, I will introduce legislation which would require school districts, upon petition of ten percent of the registered voters of the district, to conduct a ballot referendum prior to undertaking any construction, remodeling or maintenance project that exceeds thirty percent of the district’s annual budget.

This issue was brought to me by school board members and citizens from a number of school districts across the state. It is their position that a school board can “ram through” a building project and the related borrowing before the public has an opportunity to object to the project via the elective process by replacing school board members. I witnessed this recently in a school district in the area I represent. A large percentage of the citizens of the district opposed the proposed project, but, by the time they undertook a successful write-in campaign and replaced enough board members to gain a majority, the money had been borrowed, the contracts had been signed, demolition had started on the existing building and ground had been broken on the new construction.

Under the current process, a simple majority on a school board can commit a school district to a large construction project which will necessitate school property tax increases for a period exceeding twenty years. By inserting a voter referendum in the process, taxpayers will have the opportunity to intercede prior to a school district taking on debt for a construction project.

Two important aspects of this proposal are that the referendum is not automatic for all projects. The referendum only kicks in if two criteria are met: the project exceeds thirty percent of the district’s annual budget and ten percent of the voters in the district sign a petition requesting the referendum. Therefore, small and non-controversial projects will not be affected by the referendum requirement.

I believe the referendum option will allow the public to express its opinion on large construction projects with far reaching impacts on school property taxes and place a constraint on school districts taking on building projects which exceed the educational needs of the district.

Thank you for your consideration. Please contact Chanin Zwing with any questions at 787-5270 or via e-mail at czwing@pahousegop.com.

Introduced as HB472