Archive for Thursday, November 3, 2005

Voters reject school bond proposal

Basehor-Linwood district officials regrouping after 90-vote defeat

November 3, 2005

The people have spoken.

And, again, they have spoken out against higher taxes for local schools.

By a 90-vote margin, voters on Tuesday said no to the Basehor-Linwood school district's proposed $22.9 million bond issue.

Had the bond issue passed, the district would have spent the funds to construct a new elementary school and to upgrade all other schools in the district, except the high school. The last time voters in the Basehor-Linwood district passed a school bond issue was 1997.

The final tally of Tuesday's voting, according to the Leavenworth County clerk's office, was 1,104 in favor and 1,194 opposed. Overall, 31.4 percent, or 2,299 voters, of the school district's 7,301 registered voters cast ballots Tuesday.

Twenty provisional ballots are not included in the vote totals, County Clerk Linda Scheer said. The county commission will canvass the vote totals at 9 a.m. Friday.

Tuesday's voter turnout was below that at the most bond issue attempt, which voters rejected by a 60 percent to 40 percent margin in April 2003.

In the last 15 years, school district voters have rejected seven bond issues. Before a 1997 question passed, voters turned down four bond issues -- placed on the ballot between 1990 and 1996. The other failed bond issues occurred in 2003 and Tuesday night.

The most recent bond proposal, a plan formulated throughout the last two years by administrators, educators and members of the District Advisory Council, was the district's response to area residential growth and the enrollment pinch felt at many of the district's buildings, particularly the three elementary schools.

An approved bond issue would have paid for a new kindergarten through fifth grade elementary school and renovations at each school in the district, except Basehor-Linwood High School.

The bond issue monies would have allowed for construction of 56 additional classrooms and capacity for another 1,765 students, or double the district's current capacity.

Now, on the heels of another failed bond issue, administrators, educators and DAC members must go back to the drawing board. It's too early to know what contingency plans will look like, school officials said Tuesday night.

Wednesday morning, school Superintendent Jill Hackett reinforced the idea that no definitive plans have been made for handling an influx of new students, but she mentioned rearranging grades or inflating the student-teacher ratio as some possibilities.

That ratio is currently set at a board-approved 24-to-1.

One option Hackett believes won't be supported is adding modular classrooms to handle an overflow of new students.

"I don't know it will be of any interest to anyone," Hackett said.

The superintendent said she would discuss the election outcome with the school board in coming weeks. The DAC will meet next in January, and Tuesday's vote will be a primary topic of discussion.

During an election night watch party at Community National Bank, school board members spoke to a disappointed, pro-bond issue crowd. They urged community members to take part in the advisory council.

"We need your help," board president Kerry Muehler said. "Come to DAC and bring other people, too. ... If you have ideas, you need to tell us."

Board member Doug Bittel voiced similar sentiments.

"We are faced with some problems," Bittel said. "So come to the DAC meetings."

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