Licking County News

Southwest Licking schools Bond issue rejected; district could try again in May

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

Southwest Licking officials are trying to figure out what went wrong in the wake of a rejected bond issue Nov. 5 -- and whether the district should try again in May.

The 6.04-mill bond issue was defeated by more than 450 votes, according to unofficial results from the Licking County Board of Elections.

The unofficial result was 3,011 votes, 54 percent of the votes cast, against the bond issue and 2,566 votes, or 46 percent, in favor.

The bond issue would have provided about $66.5 million for a $109-million construction and renovation project. The state would have kicked in $42.5 million, district officials say.

The bond would have cost property owners about $211 per year per $100,000 of assessed property value.

"We didn't get enough parents involved," said school board member Don Huber, who was re-elected to another term in the Nov. 5 election.

He said the bond received fewer yes votes than there are students in the schools, which leads him to believe district parents need to be better convinced of the need for the bond issue should it appear on another ballot.

There's a strong possibility it will appear on the May ballot, Huber said, but board members plan to discuss the bond issue's future during their next meeting.

Huber said it's complicated because the district also has to renew its operating levy.

He said the levy campaign committee did a "great job," and the board will have to review its approach to promoting the levy should it reappear.

"It was a perfect opportunity to pass this," said Dan Hayes, the levy campaign committee chairman and a Pataskala City Council member.

Hayes said the campaign was directed toward parents, who either voted against the bond issue or didn't vote at all.

Hayes said parents' attitude toward the vote will be easier to determine when official results are available Nov. 25.

He said the campaign committee faced some challenges because it only had 60 days -- September and October -- to convince parents and voters of the bond issue's importance, and the campaign began with no money. Usually, he said, the funding is raised first, before deciding where and how it will be spent.

"It was challenging," he said. "I think we did what we could with what we had."

Assuming the bond issue reappears on the May ballot, Hayes said, the new campaign should be more "emotionally driven" and less about numbers and dollar figures.

"I'm optimistic we can pass it in May," he said.

"It's depressing all the way around," board Vice President Debra Moore said. "The schools are going to keep getting overcrowded.

"We have schools suited for 700 kids and they have 900 kids in them. We want all-day kindergarten, but we don't have the room."

Moore said parents need to understand the importance of the bond issue and the state covering roughly 40 percent of the bill is a rare opportunity.

"I appreciate that people don't want to be overtaxed. I don't want to be, either," Moore said.

She said board and committee members need to talk to the people who voted no and determine why, adding that the state's financial offer won't last long.

"We're going to need to do something," Moore said. "We've got an incredible offer from the state and the need's not going away."

School board race

District voters also retained the two veteran school board members who ran for re-election: Huber and Roger Zeune.

Voters also tapped newcomer Daniel Bell for the third seat on the board.

Zeune received 2,272 votes, 21.13 percent of the votes cast.

Bell received a handful less: 2,269 votes, or 21.1 percent.

Huber received 2,214 votes, or 20.59 percent.

The other candidates in the field were Andy Leachman, who received 2,078 votes, or 19.32 percent, and John Vincent, who received 1,920 votes, or 17.86 percent.

Some details came from previous ThisWeek staff reports.

"We didn't get enough parents involved."

-- DON HUBER

School board member

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