The bond issue, if approved, would allow the Marshall school district to buy land at the southeast corner of town and build a new three-grade elementary school, with room for additional buildings in the future.
Committee Chairman Wayne Crawford addressed the Marshall school board at its regular meeting Tuesday, March 23, and said the group opted for a lower-key, more personal approach.
Although the committee is again running newspaper and radio ads, the main focus will be on making contact with voters, he said.
"Last time, we tried to inform the public. We got the word out on what the board was trying to achieve and what this building was. People understood. We didn't need to sell that again," he said. "This time we decided to really go personal in this campaign."
Crawford added that he thinks voters are beginning to give the board credit for listening to them.
Several town hall meetings were held during the fall campaign, but an expanded schedule of similar public meetings, which included tours of school buildings, were held earlier this year.
Crawford said those meetings were well-attended, and people brought their questions and concerns to the committee's attention.
Several key changes in the proposed building project were made, some of them as a result of input from community members.
--The board selected a site at the intersection of Lincoln Avenue and Watermill Road owned by the Gieringer family, which has enough space to accommodate at least one more school building in addition to the proposed upper elementary building. The board's long-range plan calls for adding a second three-grade elementary school in about a decade.
--The board trimmed expenses, bringing the total cost of the project down to $16.8 million from the estimated $19-20 million the previous plan could have cost.
--Reducing estimated cost allowed the board to ask voters for a smaller tax increase. The debt service levy would be set at 67 cents per $100 assessed valuation. In the fall version, the board would have had to set the levy at about 80 cents.
The board also considered the option of renovating existing elementary schools and got plans and cost estimates from the construction management firm the district is working with.
After considering public input and the pros and cons of renovation, the board decided to stick with the new building plan.
Crawford told the board that at public meetings and in his conversations with individuals, he has gotten positive responses from those changes.
The Gieringer property is accessible but is not located on or near a major highway, as was the site chosen in the fall.
The reduction of the tax levy rate may help sway voters who are concerned about the economy.
Crawford said he was initially leery of trimming the project, but "I understand you've got to get a product that people can afford."
He also noted that voters who are interested in a return to neighborhood schools may be reassured by the fact that the district will shift from the current single-grade-plus-kindergarten arrangement to a more traditional multigrade scheme reminiscent of the neighborhood schools of the past.
That means all elementary schools will be multigrade.
The new school would house grades three through five, and the remaining three elementary schools would each house grades kindergarten through second.
Board member Teri Wright asked Crawford whether he thought people were concerned about state budget cuts affecting the new school project.
Crawford said some might have those concerns, but they are based on a misunderstanding of how school finances work.
"I do think it's hard for people to separate the running of the schools and the building of the building," he said. "They are totally separate entities. They don't touch each other in any way."
Crawford said he was encouraged by the feedback he's gotten recently and hopes the process of contacting voters personally will be enough to meet the 57-percent majority required to pass the issue. A similar bond issue failed three times from 2000 to 2003, but in November, the issue received more than 50 percent of the vote for the first time.
"We lost by 167 votes. If all of us who believe in this project can bring five people to the polls, we can win this," he said.
Levy impact on property owners:
Bond issue information provided by campaign committee: