It was both a victory and a defeat for the Washington School District in Tuesday’s municipal election.
Voters approved Question 1 of the district’s two-part Prop R, Right Now for Children, but Question 2 failed to get the needed four-sevenths majority, or 57.1 percent, to pass.
Superintendent Dr. Lori VanLeer said it’s a good news, bad news scenario with the district now being able to proceed with some projects, but not the ability to address its most pressing space and safety needs.
“I guess I would say it’s bittersweet,” she told The Missourian.
Passage of Question 1, which received just over 65 percent of the vote districtwide, will allow the district to build a new early childhood center, upgrade to wireless technology in all buildings, complete HVAC renovations at Augusta Elementary and add classrooms at Marthasville Elementary.
This is the good news, said VanLeer, noting these projects will be a big step forward in achieving some of the district’s long-range academic and facility goals.
“The addition of a wireless infrastructure and an early childhood center are vital for the continued success of our students,” she said, thanking voters for their support.
“But this is just one step forward and we were hoping to take several steps forward, so that’s very disappointing,” VanLeer said. “The projects we can do will help address some of our needs, but it does nothing for some of the others.”
Question 1 did not require a tax rate increase, she said, which obviously helped in winning voter approval.
The superintendent said she knew Question 2, a $40 million bond issue with a 25-cent tax rate increase, would be the tougher sell.
Despite not receiving the required 57.1 percent majority to pass, VanLeer noted it did receive a majority vote at 50.52 percent.
“This proposal (Question 2) would have eliminated overcrowding by constructing a new 6-8 grade middle school and increased student safety by discontinuing the use of modular trailer classrooms,” she said. “Unfortunately, we did not receive enough support to resolve our most pressing issues – overcrowding and student safety.
“We will have to deal with the natural consequences of not having enough space and program changes will occur.”
VanLeer did not give specifics on the program changes. She also declined to speculate on when the district would seek another bond issue.
“We need to take some time off to reflect and focus on what we can do,” she said. “At this point I don’t have a plan to put something back on the ballot, nor does the board.”
VanLeer hopes to go out to bid on the early childhood center this spring. The district already is seeking bids for the HVAC improvements at Augusta, and soon will begin working on the wireless upgrades and the classroom addition at Marthasville.
“We will move forward with what the voters approved and make the best of it,” she said.
According to unofficial results, the breakdown of votes for Prop R, by county, is as follows:
Franklin County — 3,844, yes; and 2,128, no.
St. Charles County — 242, yes; and 84, no.
Warren County — 516, yes; and 250, no.
Franklin County — 2,979, yes; and 2,993 no.
St. Charles County — 188, yes; and 139, no.
Warren County — 400, yes; and 362, no.