Bill restricts school referendums
New London School Board updated on proposed legislation
By Jennifer LeNoble
State legislators have proposed changes to a referendum bill that would restrict how often school districts can place referendums on the ballot.
New London School District administrators updated school board members, at its Jan. 11 board meeting, on the recent bill developments.
Assembly Bill 481 and Senate Bill 355 would prohibit school districts from going to a referendum within two years of a failed ballot measure, and would limit the dates on which districts could hold referendums.
If a referendum question is rejected the district would not be able to borrow for short-term needs. In addition, the school board would not be able to take out any short-term notes, bonds, or state trust loans during that two year period.
Since board members met last month, an amendment was proposed to the bill that would allow for short-term borrowing and short-term notes.
“This was a major concern to New London,” said Joseph Marquardt, director of Business Services. “We rely on these options to pay our bills due to the timing of revenues.”
Another amendment to the bill has shortened the timeframe a district could go back to a failed referendum. The timeframe was shortened from two years to one year.
“This is a positive development to the proposed bill,” Marquardt said. “But it still does eliminate the local control of a school board and the taxpayers of a district.”
Marquardt further commented that local control is of the utmost importance and the referendum bill challenges this control.
New London School District administrators and board members remain hopeful to meet with local legislators to discuss the impact and opposition of the bill.
There will be two school board seats open for the upcoming April 5 election.
The candidates running for the election include incumbent Virginia Schlais, Mary Swifka, and Chris Martinson.
Current board member John Faucher is not seeking re-election.
“Mr. Faucher will be greatly missed, but we look forward to his continued presence through his work in the community,” district administrator Kathy Gwidt said.
After the election, newly elected board members will take office beginning April 25 and serve a three-year term.
The School District of New London has worked diligently to enhance communication of district news to the community.
The district’s 2015-18 strategic plan includes the strategy of enhancing communication. The goal is to use multiple methods of communication and engagement to reach all community members in order to gain meaningful input, participation, partnerships, and shared responsibility for student success.
The “Bulldog Bulletin,” eNewsletter, and the New London Press Star column are current features for the district. In addition, the district launched “Bulldog Nation” on Jan. 4.
“We have a strong social media presence and are pleased with the number of people already signed up,” Gwidt said.
“Bulldog Nation” is a forum that allows the schools and the community to connect through special events, networking opportunities, and information sharing. “Bulldog Nation” is for alumni, community members, friends, family, and supporters of the New London Bulldogs.
The district invites anyone who shares interest in the School District of New London to join “Bulldog Nation” by signing up at http://newlondonbulldogs.alumninations.com.
In addition to the forums, the district has a variety of civic organizations within the community.
“We enjoy representing the district with organizations such as Bulldogs of Character in the Community,” Gwidt said. “It holds a strong presence and we continue to welcome new members to our Parent and Community Council.”
Gwidt also expressed her gratitude to Dick Johnson, New London’s Access Cable producer.
“We thank Mr. Johnson for his dedication to filming these events which allows further visibility to our district and community via the local cable station,” Gwidt said.
Gwidt is asking for any recommendations from the school board and from the community regarding the community forums.
“We’re asking for your thoughts,” Gwidt said. “What would you like to know more about in regards to our schools and what you think we should be sharing with our community?”