Archive for Thursday, July 26, 2007

Johnson once more opposing bond plan

Question 2 prompts board member’s opposition

July 26, 2007

The red and white sign is hard to miss stuck in the property near De Soto's gateway east-Y.

It reads "Vote No USD 232 School Bond" and it's place on the property owned by De Soto school board member Randy Johnson, who represents Position 4.

At the May 7 board meeting, Johnson voted yes to question one on the bond issue, which calls for $51 million in building expansions, land acquisition, technology, security enhancements and an early childhood education center. He later voted no to question two on the bond issue, which calls for $19.5 million in artificial turf for De Soto and Mill Valley high school football fields and a new theater at each school. Question two cannot be passed if question one fails.

Johnson said he changed his mind on the bond issue when board members voted to add question two to the ballot.

"I never took into account question two when we voted on question one," he said. "After we did that I went, 'Oh my god, I forgot about question two.' If I had thought question two would be anywhere part of the bond referendum, there's no way in the world that I would have said 'Yay' to question one.

"I just have a real problem with the lack of classrooms that are in question one and obviously question two is all fluff."

This is not the first time Johnson has campaigned against a bond issue. Last year, he purchased four advertisements in The De Soto Explorer and its sister publication The Shawnee Dispatch urging voters to vote no for the $105.7 million bond issue that included two new elementary schools, an early childhood education center, building expansions, technology upgrades and land acquisition. The bond failed by 33 votes in the November 2006 election.

Johnson said he won't purchase ads this year, but he will put more of the yard signs left over from last year's bond election on his properties.

"I'm not going to go out there and oppose it like I did last time, but when I mail in my ballot I will vote no on it and I encourage others to do so as well," he said.

While Johnson plans to vote no, he said his vote would be different if question two were absent from the ballot.

"I would've voted yes for question one," he said.

At its last meeting July 16, the school board discussed norms that will guide the board in the 2007-08 fiscal year. Those norms included supporting the board's overall decision and teamwork.

Board president Janine Gracy said the board's official stance was to support the school bond, but she said Johnson had a right to express his opinion. The decision will be up to voters when ballots are mailed Aug. 18, she said.

"The district will put out the information on the bond issue, and then we are going to let the community decide what they want," Gracy said.

There was some discussion by the board about taking last year's failed bond issue to voters again. Instead, the board whittled it down to what is needed, Gracy said.

"It allows the district to house the students who are coming into our district," she said. "It also allows us a little bit of time to develop the long-term strategic plan. It's no secret that we are going to need a third high school soon."

Johnson said he was not against new classrooms, but he felt like the bond proposal was rushed and said he disliked putting the question on a mail ballot instead of waiting to add it to an election because it was an additional cost to the district.

Gracy said the time to act is now.

"We have to vote on this at this particular time because of the fact that if it passes it still takes time to plan and to put those additions in place," she said.

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