The voters of Port Washington turned down the school district's bond referendum by the wide margin of 4,805 to 2,953. This represents the largest voter turnout in the history of the district, knocking out of first place the 1973 vote in which 7,348 residents voted.
The Meyer family, Peter, Elizabeth and Julie share Mom's win.
Approval of the operating budget with a 4.4 percent increase in the tax bite was also denied by the voters, by a much slimmer margin however: 4,120 to 3,954.
The electorate also voted out of office the three incumbents who were running. The incumbents were all seeking a second term and received the following number of votes: Nancy Cowles (3,301), Sandy Ehrlich (3,371) and Dr. Roy Nelson (3,374).
The challengers, who ran primarily on a platform of being opposed to the bond proposal, received the following number of votes: Robert Ferro (4,198), Julie Meyer (4,458) and Peter Wezenaar (3,919).
For many of the no-voters polled, they voted against the bond for several reasons. Heard loud and clear was that it was just a "ridiculous" amount of money. Others commented that they didn't have faith in the board's ability to handle a project of this magnitude. Several cited the, what now appears to be, unnecessary closing of schools in the past, in addition to various board and administration "baggage" from previous years. Some didn't like specific parts of the plan. (i.e. Weber as an elementary school, a large middle school at the Sousa site, etc.). Some felt that if Weber were to be used as an elementary school, the money spent on converting Weber into a middle school was a complete waste of money. Some also felt that the board didn't listen last year when the community defeated the budget in protest against what was then a $75 million bond proposal.
None of the yes-voters liked the price tag, however they believed that the plan was solid and would take the schools through the next ten years. Others commented that the difference between a lesser bond of say $50 million, and the $87 million bond, that was reduced $9 million by virtue of school aid, would be only $100 or so dollars less year and felt a more comprehensive, one-shot plan was worth the extra money.
When asked to comment on the results, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Al Inserra said:
"The community has spoken. My first priority is to prepare a budget to be presented to the commujnity before June 30, 2000. There is much at stake in not having a budget, such as summer programs and capital projects targeted to provide space for increased enrollment.
"Once the new board of education is seated, we need to quickly get back to a discussion of the long-term plan, and the possibility of presenting another bond to the community in the fall."
The newly elected candidates were asked to comment also.
Julie Meyer responded, "I want to see the community come back together now as a whole now that the election is over. We need to work together to have a plan that the whole community will approve and be in the best interests of the whole community. I'm confident that we can work out our differences.
Peter Wezenaar remarked, "It's time to build bridges. I understand there is some anxiety about the new board. Rest assure a new facility plan will emerge quickly that will win support from the entire community. Our school system will be greatly strengthened and our children will emerge the real victors. It's time to work together."
Robert Ferro said, "I look forward to the many challenges over the next three years, while serving our schools and our community."
When asked to comment, School Board President Dr. Roy Nelson replied "taken in context of a failed budget last year, and a failed budget this year, and the failed bond, to me the message is that the community does not want to continue to pay for the way our students are educated. The message to me is to find a less expensive way to educate the children."