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What are the five things every District should do before saying the word “referendum”?

Posted By Kevin Hickman On October 7, 2014

Talk of facility planning, hiring of consultants and scheduling a referendum typically begins with a small group of people in the District, whether administration, staff, parents or students, noticing a vulnerability in the District. This vulnerability often presents itself in the form of a deficiency in facilities, whether perceived or actual. The threat of losing ground in some way sparks these people into action, and they in turn try to communicate that sense of urgency to others within the District, most often leading back to District Administration.

The biggest mistake most Administrators make from the start is charging full speed ahead without knowing which foot to put in front of the other, which is understandable, but generally leads to an inevitable outcome – starting over a few months down the road. Before you ever consider going to referendum, a few important things must happen first. By working with your construction manager early, long before you have to worry about the specifics of paint colors, there are five things you can do to ensure you lay the groundwork for successful outcomes, months, and even years down the road.

So what are the five things you need to do? Well, the first one you have hopefully already checked off the list. You have engaged your construction manager. Today, most Districts engage a construction manager first, and not because they are 100% set on a plan to build something. Rather, they don’t know if they need to build something to address their deficiency, and they need an expert to help them figure out the answer – and most important, what it will cost. Steps two through five center around engaging the remaining team of experts, and getting everyone around the proverbial table to talk.

Next you should engage your architect, and your construction manager should assist you in evaluating this critical partner. Architects help the team identify functional requirements, preferences, and design priorities, as well as sort through the maze of building codes and zoning requirements, and help develop master plans for your space needs. Another seat at the table is occupied by your surveying or polling consultant, who will work with the team to define how the District will get valuable feedback from the community, prior to defining the final option or options for referendum. Your school finance consultant also plays an important role in evaluating the District’s current debt load, borrowing capacity, and many other factors to help you make smart business decisions.

Finally, once you have a had your initial meeting with your group of expert consultants, then it may make sense to form a small group of individuals drawn from faculty, facilities staff, administration, parents, taxpayers, large landowners, business owners and other constituencies from the community solicited for involvement in an initial facilities committee, which will be tasked with reviewing the current state of District facilities and then forming a larger facilities committee should the District move past preliminary facility discussions.

So, when the word referendum is about to cross your lips, take a deep breath and have a seat. When you have come to your senses, pick up the phone and give me a call, and lets talk through the five steps I outlined above. You’ll save yourself months of wasted time, a few gray hairs in the process.

Download this referendum roadmap to get you started down the right path: Referendum Timeline 11X17

Filed Under Education