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LP-A brainstorms on PR for May 8 school bond vote

The Lake Park-Audubon School Board is planning another vote to pass a building referendum, and members are determined to get the word out.

Scheduled for May 8, with voting locations set in Lake Park and Audubon, the proposed building bond would pay for a new building in Lake Park and significant remodeling to the Audubon school building.

Board members met Wednesday night to discuss a plan of attack for the third attempt to pass the issue. They discussed getting the word out, "squelching uninformed negativity" and how to reach voters.

In the past, the board has used public notices, newspapers, radio, television, mailings, meetings and conversations to promote information on the referendum. They will continue those means, with a few extra.

"We need to go out of our way" to get to the voting public because "it's an entirely different election" since it won't be a general election year, Board Chairman Vicky Grondahl said.

The board discussed sending out postcards, letters and small magazine-type literature to reach people.

"Whether it's one sheet or three, if they don't want to read it, it goes in the garbage," member Dale Binde said.

Grondahl said all forms need to be sent out because of the different audiences they're being sent to, "the more the better." The group even discussed making a DVD to send to district voters.

While the board is obviously supporters of the referendum, Superintendent Dale Hogie reminded the board they are there to be information providers. Legally, the school board can't solicit "yes" votes.

Grondahl said, "we need to talk to the positive (voting) people too" and help get the word out and make sure everyone in the district knows about the election.

The board discussed hiring a consultant to explain the proposal to the public, but Hogie said that would be a "gray area" because it might look like a promotion for the "yes" vote.

Despite promotion, member Jeff Swetland said, "the underlying issue is how much taxes will go up."

The literature has mentioned a phone number people can call to see how much exactly their taxes would increase, but Swetland said there needs to be more promotion of that number. (The toll free number is Ehlers and Associates at 1-800-552-1171.)

Hogie said he'd like to include information on the tax rate compared to neighboring school districts. Swetland said he knows of a man who admitted he is paying the same portion in school taxes as he was 10 years ago. Grondahl said getting testimonials on the positives like that would be a benefit to the cause, also.

"We're battling those people that don't show up (to public meetings). The information is out there," Swetland said.

"It comes down to what you can control. You can't control gas prices, but if my taxes are going to go up, no," he continued.

"I disagree," Grondahl said.

When it comes to public meetings, the board agreed to hold a Saturday daytime meeting to get to the people that can't come on weekdays or at night.

Communication seems to be key to the board.

"Misinformation still exists," Hogie said. "Those are damaging things."

The board listed several of the misinformation items they have heard over the last year or so including swimming pools (which there isn't), indoor tracks (which there isn't), why maintenance hadn't been done all along (which it has), cost of renovation still isn't understood, and getting the old buildings upgraded is likely more costly than new construction.

"We need to be proactive for getting out positive information," Grondahl said.