Archive for Thursday, October 4, 2007

Timing hurt bonds’ chances, residents say

October 4, 2007

Two weeks after the failure of a two-question $70.5 million bond referendum, residents are wondering why it failed and what De Soto USD 232 will do next.

Sandi Crow of De Soto said although she voted for both questions on the ballot, she could see why it failed.

"I think a lot of it is that the school taxes are so high," she said. "People feel like there is a lot of waste that is being spent in schools."

Crow said she used to vote against the bond referendums because she was gainst tax increases when her children were homeschooled. Now that her children attend Lexington Trails Middle School and De Soto High School, she changed the way she voted, Crow said.

"My kids play basketball and everywhere I go they have nice facilities," she said. "I would like to have nice facilities here."

De Soto resident Tina Twidwell wouldn't share how she voted, but she said it was more than just taxes that caused voters to overwhelming reject the bond referendum.

"Right now the economy is so shaky and with the war going on people are scared to step out there," she said. "Maybe people are tired of being hit by 'We need more money, we need more money, we need more money.'

"I think people who live in De Soto proper ... feel like maybe a lot more emphasis is being put outside of the city limits."

Stephanie Liebig of De Soto said she thought the east and west sides were at odds.

"I think we need to split our schools up," she said. "We're sick of them asking for more money and we are sick of it going over there.

"I would have voted yes on Question II but not Question I because it was benefiting our schools. It was benefiting our kids."

One issue with the bond referendum was poor voter turnout. Only about 45 percent of registered voters returned their mail ballots resulting in a lower turnout than the November 2006 bond election where voters had to go to the polls. Last year, 9,744 patrons voted. This year, 7,958 residents voted.

In May, district officials said they decided to go with a mail ballot with the hopes of getting a higher voter participation rate since voters would not have to leave their homes to cast their votes.

"I was surprised the voter turnout was really poor," Twidwell said. "I don't know why that is. Maybe the mail-in ballot wasn't the way to go. I think people tend to forget to send it in."

Several east-side residents said they forgot to return their ballots, but declined to share their names. Many said their ballots got mixed up with other documents, covered up and forgotten.

Amy Hempleman of Shawnee said she turned her ballot in, but she heard from other residents that some who were registered didn't receive their ballots.

"In one case, in one household, people registered to vote the very same day and only one of them received a ballot," she said.

Crow said she also thought the mail ballot wasn't the best way to go.

"I do think they probably ought to go to conventional voting in a more major election to get the true feeling of what people are feeling," she said.

Other residents weren't registered, like Shawnee resident Shelly Davis.

"All I remember seeing is signs in people's yards saying 'Vote yes' or 'Vote no,'" she said.

Mike Chamberlain of Shawnee also wasn't registered to vote in time.

"I just moved here in July," he said.

Although Chamberlain did not vote, he said those who were against the bond issue were more motivated to return their ballots.

"I think people that thought about it negatively felt more passionate and if every voter had participated it would have passed," he said.

Monday, the De Soto USD 232 Board of Education approved a special meeting Oct. 30 to address how to manage district growth for the schools that are most in need of more space including Starside Elementary School and Mill Valley High School.

Liebig said she hopes that the district comes back with a better plan for the future.

"There needs to be more planning and there needs to be better planning," she said.

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