Archive for Thursday, February 16, 2006

School officials: Turnout key to success

February 16, 2006

Expect this year's school bond issue campaign to focus on voter registration and getting more people to the polls.

Superintendent Jill Hackett said low voter turnout may have cost the school district a victory in last year's bond issue.

The $22.9 million question was defeated by 81 votes.

"It was remarkably close ... 41 more votes would have done it," Hackett said.

She added, "The reality is I know there was more support than what was evidenced at the polls."

Shortly after the 2005 question, some school officials chalked up the defeat to voter apathy. There is evidence to support the claim.

Of the 7,200 registered voters in Basehor-Linwood, just 2,313 cast ballots last November. And, school officials learned, 30 percent of the parents in the district are not registered.

Of those parents who are registered, only 28 percent cast a ballot last year.

While the overall blueprint of the bond issue campaign is still being crafted, school officials have a rough idea for how they intend to spread their message.

The campaign will most likely kick off with a calendar of events beginning six weeks before Election Day.

School officials said they plan to schedule just as many speaking engagements, more than 30, as last year.

Between now and then, the district will begin sending information to the public regarding the plan and the need for new facilities.

"We can always improve and enhance communication," Hackett said. "We'll continue to share information. We have ample time."

Historically voter turnout for bond issues in Basehor-Linwood has been low. Based on records from the eight previous bond issues, seven of which failed, the average total is 2,437 votes per election.

That breaks down to an average of 1,036 votes in favor and 1,401 votes against.

Hackett said that history doesn't have to repeat itself.

"I would say it's time to really analyze that history and change the complexity of this area for the future," she said.

"What we really have to help people understand is (this plan is) a balancing act of what the needs of our schools are and what the public can support."

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