School bond issue fails
Board members vow to try again
De Soto USD 232 voters rejected the school district's $91.2 million school bond issue in a mail-in ballot conducted during the past three weeks.
"It's a loss for the kids, not the adults," a disappointed De Soto Superintendent Marilyn Layman said after learning of the bond issue's defeat.
Results released by the Johnson County Election Office Tuesday indicate the bond issue failed by 125 votes, with 3,084 of the mail-in ballots marked yes and 3,209 no. The results will become official after the Johnson County Commission certifies the ballots Friday.
Of the 12,926 ballots mailed last month, 6,296 or 48.79 percent were returned.
"That's terribly disappointing," she said of the participation percentage.
The district put the bond issue in front of voters at a time a number of tax and education issues were being debated in Topeka and in Johnson County, Layman said. That, and the downturn in the national economy, might have contributed to the bond issue's defeat, she said.
Board member Marsha Bennett said the economy was probably the biggest factor.
"I think a lot of people may have been overwhelmed by the total amount, especially given the uncertain economic times," she said. "People are looking more at themselves and wondering if their jobs are safe."
The election office counts all ballots in mail-in elections as a single precinct, meaning it is impossible to track how the bond issue fared in different areas of the district. But its defeat was mostly greeted with satisfaction in De Soto.
"I'm not surprised," said retired teacher Roland Ohrenberg, De Soto. "I think the things they've done over the past few years upset people."
Samantha Todd, a De Soto mother of three, said she voted against the bond issue because she didn't want De Soto residents building new schools in Shawnee.
"I'm glad it didn't pass," she said. "I think they build way too much. There was not enough in there for De Soto."
Rosemary Bistenfeldt of De Soto said the schools were needed whether they were in De Soto or Shawnee.
"I support the schools," she said. "The district is growing. I know it's hard for people on fixed income, but they have to have new schools."
Because of that necessity, board members said it is not a question of if they well return with a new bond issue, but when. The Aug. 6 primary election and Nov. 5 general election affords the district two opportunities to do so this year.
The board will start making that decision and what to put in the new bond issue at its June3 board meeting.
"We as the board need to talk about what we heard and what we believe to be the reason the bond issue failed, said board member Bill Waye of Shawnee. "There is no question we need the new school buildings. I think discussion will focus on the non-building items in the bond issue."
The bond issue would have built four new elementary schools, a new middle school, a classroom addition at Mill Valley High School, additional office space at Monticello Trails Middle School.