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School board clerk rejects referendum petition signatures
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Boscobel School Board clerk Barb Puckett and fellow board members Tom Pelz and Roger Knoble met with petitioners seeking a referendum on the board’s $10 million borrowing resolution on Wednesday, Dec. 31 at 7:30 a.m. Hans Steele, Steve Peer, Troy Brechler and Lisa Rounds had submitted 405 signatures on Dec. 17 seeking the referendum.

“They told us initially we needed 263 signatures, but they’re all denying that now,” Steele said.

“They didn’t have the final numbers we needed and we were still collecting petitions,” added Peer. “We could easily have gotten five or six hundred. Half the people we talked to didn’t even know about (the resolution. It’s crazy. We didn’t stand a chance.”

Mike Nelson of the Government Accountability Board in Madison said the board had asked for assistance in determining the number of school district voters who voted in the fall election. He said the Boscobel School District has 2,821 active voters in 14 municipalities. Of that number, 1,889 voted in the fall election.

According to a Nov. 18, 2014 Notice to the Electors regarding the resolution authorizing the borrowing of not to exceed $10,000,000—“…a referendum is required on the question of this borrowing only if a petition is filed within 30 days after this publication signed by at least 7,500 District electors or 20% of the District electors voting for Governor at the last general election, whichever is the lesser.”

If Nelson’s number of 1,889 district voters who voted in the fall election is correct, then 20 percent of that figure would be 378 signatures.

“The main thing they wanted from us was the number of voters in the school district, and I believe there’s still some confusion as to what that number is,” Nelson said.

Puckett said the initial estimate of signatures did not include the village of Woodman and several rural townships. In the end she and the board decided 394 valid signatures were needed to force the referendum. However, after she deemed 21 signatures invalid, an insufficient number of 384 signatures were left.

“I was more than fair,” Puckett said. “I threw out 11 that were obviously signed by the same person. I could have thrown out 50. In fact, they all could have been thrown out because they weren’t done right.”

Puckett said that besides fraudulent signatures there were also signatures from people not residing in the school district, as well as addresses listing only post office box numbers, also not allowed by the Government Accountability Board’s rules called “Determination of Sufficiency.”

“We don’t know what we’re going to do yet,” she said, adding that several board members believe the public should have a say in the matter.

Peer agrees, saying that if the $10 million project goes forward as proposed, it will cost him more than $40,000 over 20 years.

“It’s too much money for seven people to make that decision,” Peer said. “It really does need to be put up for a referendum.”

However, that’s not what Steele believes is going to happen. “They’re going to stick it to the public one way or the other,” he said.