With early voting well underway and only about two weeks until Election Day, Big Walnut Local School District leaders say they're "optimistic" about their ballot issue's chances.

The district returns to the ballot Nov. 7 with a revised funding request 12 months after voters shot down the last ballot issue. This time, Big Walnut will ask voters to approve a 6.6-mill bond issue and a 1.25-mill permanent-improvement levy, combined on the ballot.

"We're optimistic," Superintendent Angie Pollock said. "We've really tried to focus in the last year on getting information out for our community so they can make an informed choice. We put a lot of time and effort into doing that, and we encourage people, if they have questions on the issue, to please reach out."

The bond issue would raise an estimated $108 million and would be paid back over 37 years. The money would be used to build a new high school and an additional elementary school, as well as to add security upgrades to existing buildings.

Last November, residents said "no" to a $134 million, 8.3-mill bond issue by a vote of 6,204 to 5,287, or 54 percent to 46 percent. That bond issue would have been repaid over 37 years, costing homeowners an estimated $290 annually per $100,000 of their property's market value.

According to Big Walnut officials, the new ballot issue would cost residents an increasing amount as the full millage begins to be collected. The district expects to collect just 1.56 mills in 2018, costing homeowners about $55 annually per $100,000 in property value.

The cost to homeowners is expected to increase gradually to about $230 annually per $100,000 in home value by 2021 and to about $275 yearly by the end of the bond's 37-year repayment schedule, according to the district.

Pollock said district leaders haven't drastically changed their approach this time around, but simply have continued the work that began last summer. She said an increase in outreach, such as casual gatherings with residents and an expanded district newsletter, have made a difference.

"We definitely built on what we did last year," she said. "I think the thing we've done better is strategically holding coffee chats in different neighborhoods to get coverage around the district as much as we can."

School board President Andy Wecker said he feels "as good about this campaign team as I felt about the last campaign team," and said he hopes situational changes will be helpful.

"I think we learned from last year, in terms of what we did to modify the proposal," he said. "There are a lot of people moving into Big Walnut. Last year was a highly unusual presidential campaign, and we faced a lot of noise in terms of trying to tell our story. So I think it will help."

Pollock echoed the same sentiment, saying the lack of a presidential race -- especially one as contentious as 2016's -- means the district has been better able to get its message across.

"The mood of the presidential election really impacted everything else, and we're not contending with that this year, which is nice," she said. "I feel like people are more able to focus on this issue.

"Last year, even when mailing things out, we'd hear, 'I'm getting so many political mailers in my mailbox,' " Pollock said. "It was just getting lost in the shuffle."

Both Pollock and Wecker said they're thinking positively as the calendar page turns to November, but neither is confident enough to make a guarantee.

"I'm very hopeful and encouraged -- but you just don't know until Election Day," Wecker said.

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