Byron Public Schools Superintendent Mike Neubeck has been talking to anyone who will listen about the upcoming vote on the district’s proposed referendum: The Lions Club. Sports associations. Coffee groups. Parents picking up their pre-schoolers at the end of the day. Anyone.

He’s on a mission to get as many people as possible to polling places on Nov. 2 and to make sure they go with the correct information.

“I just ask them to be educated and vote however they want to vote,” Neubeck said. “I can respect that and appreciate that, but I want them to get the right information.”

RELATED: Byron Public Schools attempts third referendum in less than two years

After all, there’s a lot on the line.

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If approved, the referendum would provide $44.5 million for projects around the district. It will be presented in two questions. The first question asks voters to approve up to $23 million for more high school space, a renovation of multiple kitchen facilities, and a renovation of the administration building.

The second question is dependent upon the first being approved. It asks voters to approve up to $21.5 million for the athletic facilities at the middle school and high school, as well as an auditorium at the high school.

Food service workers Judy Mathias, right, and Helen Radke start to put away the salad bar and beverage station at the Byron Middle School lunch/activity room in February, 2020. The kitchen area is too full to hold these amenities, forcing their set-up in the activity room. (Ken Klotzbach/kklotzbach@postbulletin.com)
Food service workers Judy Mathias, right, and Helen Radke start to put away the salad bar and beverage station at the Byron Middle School lunch/activity room in February, 2020. The kitchen area is too full to hold these amenities, forcing their set-up in the activity room. (Ken Klotzbach/kklotzbach@postbulletin.com)

History, however, has not been on the district’s side. This will be the third bond question the district has put before voters in roughly a year and half. Voters rejected both previous referendum measures, regardless of whether they were presented in one question or two.

The amounts have varied. The first was in May 2020 and asked for $58 million. The second was in May 2021 and asked for $41 million.

This will be the first referendum for Neubeck, though. He landed on the scene in July after the district’s former superintendent, Joey Page, took a job in Austin.

Neubeck thinks the third time could be the charm, at least for part of the project.

“I’m optimistic, especially about the first question,” Neubeck said. “We listened to the community, who said ‘we want a question that’s just about the schools.’”

Neubeck says there are factors that could turn the tide this time. For one, he says there are plenty of untapped voters: residents who didn’t show up to express an opinion one way or the other in previous elections. That could make a difference since there was only a 60-vote difference defeating the first question in the last election.

This time around is also different in that it will include the further renovation of the District Administration and Community Services building. That means the referendum vote will have more to do with the community at large.

That became possible when the Zumbro Education District decided to build its own facility in Kasson, indicating it would no longer need the space it rented from Byron. Because of that, Byron plans to renovate the DACS building.

“We want this place, this building here, to be our community center, even though it’s a different kind of community center,” Neubeck said, referring to the administration building.

Like the last two rounds, the district's laying all its cards on the table. Billboards related to the referendum greet people as they enter the administration building. The district has been hosting information sessions. Its website is full of data related to the referendum and how it will affect voters, how it compares with the previous referendums, and so on.

Neubeck is just one of many in Byron advocating for the referendum. From school board members to business leaders to individual parents, there are plenty of Byron residents who've been cheering on the referendum for years.

Alisha Eiken, left, and Nicki Nicholas wave signs supporting the Byron referendum Tuesday, May 11, 2021. (Jordan Shearer / jshearer@postbulletin.com)
Alisha Eiken, left, and Nicki Nicholas wave signs supporting the Byron referendum Tuesday, May 11, 2021. (Jordan Shearer / jshearer@postbulletin.com)

Emmy Harvey is the vice president of the Byron Chamber of Commerce, and recently served on the Byron School Board. She's upfront about the important role the school system plays in the small town.

“People come to Byron specifically for our school,” Harvey said. “We don’t have a lot of business. We don’t have a downtown. We’re a pretty limited community, but our schools are what attract people.”

Nicki Nicholas is another advocate for the referendum, working with a committee called "Vote Yes 4 Byron Schools." Like Neubeck, she say's glad the questions have been reformatted to better reflect what the community asked for.

The committee is also trying to get more people to the ballot box.

"What I'm really pushing for, and what I feel better about, is that we can increase voter turnout," Nicholas said. "That's really been the shift for us, this third time around."

Whether it's Nicholas or Neubeck or or some other advocate, convincing the public hasn’t been an easy thing to do -- certainly not in large groups at once anyway. During one of the district’s information seminars about the referendum, only five people came. Neubeck stayed for two hours that night, going over all the information for those who showed up.

Another time, Neubeck helped organize a tour of the district for the public, so they’d be able to see the need themselves. Only 12 people came for that.

That doesn’t seem to deter Neubeck, though. For him, it's a matter of talking to as many people as possible, whether one-on-one or in a large group setting.

“They walked away being informed and being able to go tell their friends,” Neubeck said about the residents who attended the informational meeting. “If they go tell (a few) more people, all of a sudden we’re up to 50, 60 people who get the right information.”

Neubeck says he has been receiving generally positive feedback from the community.

There have been exceptions. They haven't been able to convince everyone. Regardless of which way they vote, though, Neubeck wants them to go to the ballot with the facts.

“I still don’t think I convinced her,” Neubeck said of one constituent he had been speaking with. "At least now she has all the right information."

Byron Public Schools Superintendent Mike Neubeck Thursday, Oct. 14, 2021, in Byron. Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin
Byron Public Schools Superintendent Mike Neubeck Thursday, Oct. 14, 2021, in Byron. Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin