REDMOND — A month after its $70 million bond suffered a narrow defeat at the polls, the Redmond School Board and Superintendent Mike McIntosh say they want to send it back to voters in 2019 or 2020, because the safety improvements it would finance are urgently needed.
“For safety, I have no desire to wait,” vice chair Shawn Hartfield said during the school board meeting Wednesday night. “We have to make the changes to our schools to keep our kids safe in this world.”
The bond failed by 1.7 percentage points. Despite voters in Deschutes County approving the bond by about 250 votes, the 1,853 voters in Jefferson County, which encompasses Crooked River Ranch, opposed the bond measure by a 2-to-1 margin.
About $27 million of the bond would have gone toward rebuilding the aging M.A. Lynch Elementary, which was built in 1965 and suffers from structural problems. The district’s website said Lynch was built “with lower quality construction,” and McIntosh said earlier this year that the roof sags during heavy snowfalls.
The bond would have also funded security measures, such as upgrading security camera systems, eliminating multiple entryways at middle and high schools, adding a secure lobby at each elementary school and replacing the district’s emergency communications system. Additionally, schools throughout the district would have received LED lighting and energy-efficient windows, along with technology upgrades to modernize classrooms.
Board member Johnny Corbin said a major reason the bond didn’t pass was the district didn’t try hard enough to court the votes of senior citizens, many of whom are on fixed incomes and were against tax increases.
“I’m on a fixed income, and if I didn’t know the real need for the capital improvements, I probably would’ve voted no,” he said.
Corbin also advocated for trimming the bond to only the “bare bones” necessities of capital improvements, HVAC systems and roof repairs. He said many senior citizens balked at $2 million for installing artificial turf football fields at the two high schools, for example.
Other school board members, such as Rick Bailey, disagreed.
“If we go back with a $35 million bond request, I think that’s telling the voters, ‘Yeah, we didn’t really need half of it,’” he said. “Maybe we pull the turf fields … but anything less, we’re shortchanging the students.”
Board chair Tim Carpenter suggested holding meetings, particularly with senior citizens, in order to learn exactly why people voted against the bond, and how their minds could be changed.
According to McIntosh, an exit poll showed that about 60 percent of voters who voted “no” said they were against more taxes.
Although all board members expressed a desire to give voters another bond quickly, McIntosh warned them that a quick turnaround for the May 2019 ballot wouldn’t give the district much time to put forward a strong campaign. The next time it would go before voters would then be November 2019.
“It breaks my heart to push it out that far, but I don’t see us being able to run a good campaign and getting it together so quickly,” he said.
But McIntosh suggested waiting even longer, until May 2020, because lower voter turnout is expected during both the May and November 2019 elections. One potential reason for the bond not passing in November was low turnout among voters with children — according to McIntosh, 50 percent of people in that age range didn’t vote this year.
Board members had mixed opinions on the idea, with some reluctantly agreeing with the superintendent, while others wanting a vote in May.
“I feel like if we wait until November, we lose momentum, and then the urgency isn’t there in the ballot,” Hartfield said. “I do have concerns about waiting, especially pushing it out to 2020, where it will cost more, there will be more things happening to conditions of the schools.”
Board members said they agreed no matter when the bond was presented to voters, people in the district needed to be constantly reminded of the poor conditions at Lynch and other parts of the district in needs of upgrades.
“Our need still exists,” Carpenter said. “Even if we don’t go out until May 2020, we need to keep that in front of people.”
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