CAMDEN — Residents of Preble Shawnee Local School District had the opportunity to vote on an income tax/bond issue for construction of new schools, for the third time on Tuesday, Nov. 7.
The issue failed once again, this time by 4.96 percent according to unofficial results.
To vote against the issue, 1,734 residents turned out, while 1,570 voted for the levy which would have allowed the district to build two new schools.
The failed issue was discussed by the Preble Shawnee Board of Education and Superintendent Matt Bishop during a meeting on Thursday, Nov. 9.
“I think we need to discuss as a board where Preble County goes from here,” Board Vice-President Gary Rader said. “Those on this board feel that we have a need for upgraded or new buildings. I think we need to discuss where we go from here. We ran a levy three times and they came back and told us three times that this wasn’t what they wanted.
“I heard personally, from West Elkton and Gratis that they didn’t feel it was fair that Camden got to keep their elementary school. Gratis lost theirs and West Elkton is fixing to lose theirs, and they just didn’t think it was fair. I’m hearing a lot back that if we put the school in a centralized location, in one facility, then they would support it.
“I don’t know if we need to get an outside firm? I don’t know how we reach these people to get a poll and find out what they want.”
President Candi Fyffee interjected, “We did that in the beginning on the website. We put a Survey Monkey on there.”
“I think that what Mr. Rader said was appropriate. Three times we tried it and three times the community rejected it. I guess the important thing to realize is that you can’t read anything beyond that. Just because the community said no that that plan doesn’t mean that they will approve X, Y, or Z plan,” Superintendent Matt Bishop said.
“Survey Monkey is great, but there are 3,200 who voted in November and 4,000 something who voted in November last year. There are many people who don’t come to board meetings and don’t respond on Facebook who have a voice and vote. The more we can reach everybody, the more we can understand what they will support.
“I think everybody agrees that there is a need for something, but we have no clue right now. We need to find out what they will support, what it looks like, and financially what will they support.”
Bishop continued, noting in December he would bring ideas back to the board on what other districts have done in similar situations.
“In regard to that,” Fyffe said. “The board has already made a decision that West Elkton is closing, so we do know that.”
Bishop responded, “That resolution is all that has passed right now.”
“That can be rescinded,” board member Charlie Biggs pointed out.
“It can, but you need a majority and I don’t think you will have one,” Fyffe responded.
“I can speak to what I felt contributed to why it failed,” board member Jeff Wood said. “I don’t have the solution to what will pass, but like Mr. Bishop said, we need to do a lot of soul searching and there are a lot of people we need to bring to the table. There were three things.”
“The first thing was, and this is from working on the campaign and being on this side of the table too, one thing is the same with anything you’re trying that pass and that is taxes,” he said. “People don’t want to pay higher taxes. Even though we thought we were getting a very good value, we were paying for those taxes.
“Two, we lost big in Gratis and West Elkton. From talking to folks, we had trouble reaching them. They don’t like the idea of losing their hometown school and the tax revenue that comes with that.
”Three, we had a hard time getting people to get over the hump of the idea that the high school is in as bad of shape as it is. They still call it the new high school. They felt like there wasn’t enough age on it.”
“Again, I believe that was wrong-headed thinking, and I don’t meant to be insulting to anybody’s beliefs on that, but it was a very hard thing to overcome,” Woods added. “That was the three takeaways that I got from the three different campaigns.”
“I think that if takes us reaching out to someone to get a poll out there, that is the most important thing we can do at this point, just to get everybody’s take. First question you ask them is if they think we need new facilities,” Rader said. “If yes, what is the best solution?”
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH