There were a variety of positions up for grabs in the April 6 election, from school boards to park district boards to various village and township positions.
But two of the most closely watched questions this year were referendums for the Meridian CUSD 223 and the Stillman Valley Fire Protection District. Both were seeking tax support from local residents, and both got it.
“I was intimately aware of the consequences of this potentially failing,” said Meridian CUSD 223 Superintendent Dr. PJ Caposey. “From my eyes, I saw a large negative impact looming for our students, staff, and community. To not be consumed with reductions and to be able to continue our path forward is an amazing opportunity and responsibility for our district now. I cannot wait to be able to focus on the work of improving our district.”
Voters overwhelmingly supported permanently extending an education fund tax rate approved seven years ago. The final tally was 1,161 votes in favor of the extension and 770 against it.
Caposey said he was unsure how the vote would go.
“It is funny, leading up to yesterday people would ask me how I thought it was going and I would always laugh,” he said the day after the election. “I had no idea. One moment I felt great about the number of signs I saw driving the district. The next I was discouraged by social media banter. So, I definitely did not have a feel for how this would go. I am very pleased with the margin and distribution of votes. That is a very affirming feeling.”
Chad Hoefle, fire chief with the Stillman Valley Fire Protection District, was thankful the morning after voters approved a tax increase for both fire and ambulance funds.
“My general reaction was thankfulness for our entire Fire Protection District,” Hoefle said. “A referendum is not something a taxing body wants to do, but when we see the need, especially when it comes to life safety, we have to act.
“I did feel the community was behind these referendum questions. The feedback we got was extremely positive. Most of the time people don’t share their negative thoughts, so I knew we were not going to hear a lot of that, but we did field a lot of questions and I feel we were able to sort those out.”
This is the first time since the district formed in 1952 that it requested a tax increase. Both referendums asked for a 0.1 percent property tax increase. The ambulance question passed 743 to 405, and the fire question passed 730 to 419.
“As far as what this means for the Stillman Fire Protection District, this means that we will be working towards our goal of staffing,” Hoefle said. “Obviously the funds from this referendum do not come to us right away as they are for the next tax cycle, but we will be planning and making sure that we are upholding the communities confidence with their votes by creating the best plan possible for their Fire Protection and emergency medical needs.”
For Caposey, the passage of the referendum means the school district can continue to serve students as it has been.
“First and foremost, we are not in crisis,” he said. “As a result, we can continue to build toward our goals and think about potentially expanding our offering instead of contracting. As we said many times over the past year, this was an interesting referendum because we were not raising taxes, but we were also not promising anything new and exciting. So, this quite literally means we get to stay the course and continue the trajectory we are on.”
Hoefle said he was thankful for the community they serve and protect.
“I personally am thankful for everyone who came out and voted no matter how they voted, we are happy they exercised their right to vote! From our family to yours, we are thankful,” he said.