By Tara Bitzan, director, Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce

We are still a year away from another presidential election, but there will still be some important voting going on locally this election season.

Two Douglas County School Districts have put referendums before voters this year as follows:

Alexandria Public Schools voters will have a one-question ballot that asks voters to approve a phased-in operating levy. Funding would be used to maintain or reduce class sizes, continue with specialist teachers, expand mental health support, maintain or expand real world work experiences at the middle and/or high school levels and provide more financial stability.

The proposed levy features a 10-year operating levy that is phased in as follows: $375 per student in 2020-21, $485 per student in 2021-22, and $595 per student in the 2022-23 school year and the remaining seven years after that.

Brandon-Evansville School District voters will have a two-question ballot. The first question asks voters to approve a $19.9 million referendum that will convert the existing Brandon facility into a pre-kindergarten through grade 12 school.

It will include construction of an elementary school addition and improvements, an early childhood addition and construction of high school renovations and improvements. Those include construction of a band and choir addition, along with improvements to the cafeteria/commons area, classrooms, restrooms, locker rooms and parking lot.

The second question will ask voters to approve a $5.3 million referendum that will be used to construct a multi-purpose gymnasium addition with locker rooms and a dedicated Charger Kids Club area at the Brandon School site. This question is contingent on question one passing.

Do you live in one of these school districts? If so, do you plan to vote? I hope your answer is yes!

Communities can only progress and prosper when the citizens who live there are involved and engaged. Part of being engaged means exercising your right to vote. But more importantly, it means educating yourself on the issue at hand before casting that vote.

There have been countless news reports shared through local media, many public meetings and listening sessions in all communities involved, and many other printed and online resources shared. There is also a lot of misinformation out there.

I am not going to tell you how to vote on either of these referendums. But I am going to encourage you to please make sure you have all the facts before heading to the polls. Don’t just rely on what you heard at the coffee shop last week, or what your neighbor shared over the fence this morning, or what you saw posted on Facebook that was shared by a friend of a friend of a friend.

Take the time to seek out the factual information and filter it out from the opinions that easily cause those facts to fall the wayside in every election.

In a world that President Trump would say is full of “fake news,” be sure that the information you are basing your vote on is factual. And if you aren’t sure, don’t hesitate to make the calls and ask the questions. It’s your right as a citizen, and it is expected of you as a voter.

And after you are armed with all the information you need to make an informed vote, head to the polls on Nov. 5, or vote through any of the early voting options available to you. These communities need to hear your voice.

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Tara Bitzan is executive director of the Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce. In the Know is a rotating column written by community leaders from the Douglas County area.