Archive for Thursday, November 16, 2006

Bond referendum’s virtual dead heat raises questions

November 16, 2006

Bond referendums ask voters to answer an unequivocal question. But sometimes the result of how each individual voter makes that yes-or-no decision is a maybe.

That razor-thin rejection Nov. 7 of De Soto USD 232's $105.7 million bond proposal provides just such an example. It is true the no vote was definitive. The bond proposal lost, and it would be extremely awkward for the board to resurrect it or a near-identical proposal.

District voters, we think, want to hear an acknowledgement of contrition -- some significant change demonstrating concerns were heard. The board could stubbornly advance the same proposal, but its members would do so with the awareness that the Nov. 7's turnout, pumped up by general election, would not likely be duplicated.

But at the same time, the cumulative message from voters was that they were aware of district needs and willing to listen to what the board proposes.

The no vote forces the district parents, administrators and board members to examine assumptions that would not now be addressed had 17 votes gone the other way.

That list starts with the size of district schools. We will be bold and will interpret the split decision as a willingness to consider some increase in the capacity of attendance centers but satisfaction with the enrollment solutions assumed in the bond issue.

That interpretation will be tested soon enough. The proper size for schools is likely to be the issue in next spring's school board elections.

A full debate on that issue should produce a working consensus that provides the answer to the referendum's maybe. That should give the new board added confidence when it crafts the next bond proposal.

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