Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
WELLMAN — Members of the Mid-Prairie school district blew past the required 273 petition signatures needed to hold a bond election in March, with just under 500 signatures gathered before the school board’s self-imposed Jan. 6 deadline.
“The last time we did it in 2014 we needed 89 signatures,” District Business Manager Jeff Swartzentruber said. “The community really rallied and came through. I think there’s maybe 60 pages … with signatures on them, which is really good because it means it came from a lot of different areas within the community.”
While the district initially thought it needed over 700 signatures, officials breathed a sigh of relief when the county auditor informed them they needed signatures equal to 25% of voters in the last election, rather than 25% of votes cast, which substantially lowered the threshold.
“There were 2,900 votes cast, but people could vote for anywhere from one to three directors, so somebody that voted for three directors would have been counted for three votes,” Swartzentruber said. “By saying how many people voted, it ended up being 1,085, not 2,900.”
Swartzentruber said he was happy with the community’s high level of engagement with the issue.
“I’m excited at how many people are interested in what’s happening and taking the time to put a signature down to show that they are interested in seeing us do this election,” he said. “Obviously if you sign the petition, it doesn’t mean that you’re going to go in and vote, but it shows that there’s a significant amount of interest for the projects that we need.”
The bond, if approved, would fund a $37.62 million facility plan, which includes new classrooms at East Elementary, the middle school and the high school, as well as a 600-seat auditorium at the high school.
Swartzentruber said the district imposed the early deadline on itself in an effort to avoid any complications that would risk pushing the bond election back several months if they didn’t meet the state-imposed cutoff date.
“That deadline is Jan. 14 to meet a March 1 election date,” he said. “This gives us that time to make sure the (signatures) are counted. I anticipate we may even get a couple more pages in today before we actually do the formal hand off of all of the petition pages to the board president.”
With the petition all but finalized, Swartzentruber said the next step was informing the public leading up to election day.
“Once we get the petition finalized and we get everything to the county auditor, we’ll start talking about all the different things that are on the list that need to happen, to educate people on what we envision,” he said. “Obviously the voters are the ones that are going to say yes or no to us on March 1.”