GOSHEN — There’s an election on Nov. 5 for registered voters living in the Goshen schools district, but there won’t be any political candidates on the ballot. Instead, voters will choose a “yes” or “no” answer to a single question about whether the school district should spend several million dollars on a renovation project. By voting “yes,” residents agree to a raise in property taxes to fund the project.
Diane Woodworth, Goshen Community Schools superintendent, said Tuesday, Sept. 17, that the voting process may seem a little odd to people. The school has never used this process before. To help people understand the project and its impact on people living in Goshen, the school hosted several public information meetings. The last of those meetings wrapped up Monday at the Goshen High School auditorium, but Woodworth said that there may be more meetings in October, closer to the date that people can vote.
“We are really open to the possibility of holding another meeting or two in October,” Woodworth said Tuesday. “It seems like it’s human nature that sometimes people don’t really pay attention until (the date) is closer.”
She estimated that about 20-25 people attended the first meeting, and about a dozen people attended the next two meetings. Woodworth added that the school is limited in getting the word out about the election, since school officials aren’t supposed to influence voters one way or another. Instead, they may present only factual information about the needs of the school, the price of the project, and its impact on local residents. One member of the audience at Monday’s meeting asked if the school would be sending letters about the project home with students so parents might be informed. Woodworth said this is something the school has not done. Later, after consulting legal counsel, Woodworth said that the school will send letters to students’ parents closer to the time of the vote, likely sometime in October.
“I think people do know about the project, because the community center project got so much attention,” Woodworth said, referring to an effort earlier this year to use the voting process to fund building a community center in Goshen. The school’s renovations were part of that plan, and Woodworth said she thinks local residents assume that the schools would need to continue with a renovation plan separate from the failed community center idea.
Monday, two members of a volunteer political action committee who are helping to spread the word about the special election said that there are still a lot of Goshen residents who don’t know about the upcoming chance to vote. They believe that if people knew all the details of the renovation project, “it would be impossible to say no,” Megan Eichorn, a member of the committee, said.
“All people hear is ‘property tax increase’ and they (react negatively),” Eichorn said. “But then you tell them how much it is and they are like, ‘Oh.’ (The amount) is chump change to most people.”
According to a presentation put together by Goshen Community Schools, owners of the average Goshen home worth $101,500 would pay $37.03 in extra taxes per year, or $3.09 per month, if the project is approved by voters.
The renovation project focuses on the need for a new pool and more space for Goshen’s music programs. But Steve Norton, another member of the committee, noted that the renovation will actually affect every Goshen student because the plan also includes more space for the students to eat lunch.
“It doesn’t just affect band and swimming,” Norton said of the project. “It’s all the kids who go through the cafeteria.”
The political action committee includes about 15 members, Norton said. Most are parents of Goshen students. The group is promoting the Nov. 5 election through a Say YES Goshen Facebook page, shirts, yard signs and fliers.
They’ve also been present at First Friday events in Goshen and plan to continue spreading the word at First Fridays until the election.
During Monday’s public information about the project, one audience member asked what the school plans to do if the project is not approved by voters. Woodworth responded that a “no” vote would mean that the school would need to wait a year to revisit the project. Right now, she added, they are focusing on the coming election.
“We haven’t talked a lot about if there’s a no vote, what we would do,” Woodworth said.
For more information on Goshen school’s renovation project, visit www.goshenschools.org and click on the information slide show on the left side of the page.