Archive for Thursday, September 26, 2002

Board should know constituents’ thoughts without surveys, petitions

September 26, 2002

The De Soto USD 232 Board of Education decided to include $675,000 in improvements to the Mill Valley High School football field on its proposed bond issue. In doing so, the board admitted there was no support for a district athletic complex.

It is unfortunate and somewhat puzzling that the board came to this conclusion after a failed bond referendum. It is also puzzling that the board only acknowledged the desire of eastside residents to have a football field comparable with that in De Soto when presented with a petition eight weeks before a second bond issue is to be placed before voters.

The board learned the degree of the proposed athletic complex's unpopularity this summer through a survey that polled district residents on a number of items, included in the failed bond issue. We're sure the board would agree money might have been better spent if the survey would have been completed before the first bond referendum.

Although we understand the usefulness of a survey in gauging the number of new elementary schools voters will support in a bond issue, we wonder why it was necessary to learn attitudes toward the proposed district athletic complex. Board members talk to constituents. We assume they heard what we did. The central athletic complex wasn't popular on either side of the district. De Soto residents wanted home football games to be played in the city as they had for a century. West Shawnee residents said the same thing. Businesses wanted the extra traffic game nights provide.

It appears the board erred with the best of intentions. The board knew a central athletic complex would save taxpayers money in the long run by eliminating duplication of facilities. The single complex also would have offered higher quality facilities than those built at each high school/middle school campus.

The miscalculation on the athletic complex suggests it started with the facilities focus group, which makes recommendations on needs that eventually find their way into bond proposals. We understand the group is supposed to identify needs, but an equally important factor should be consideration of the political possibility. The board would be better served if residents on the facilities focus group are encouraged to balance needs with what they know their neighbors would support.

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