After any bond issue defeat by voters, the questioning and opinions roll on and on as to why the rejection mood prevailed among those casting ballots. The most obvious factor was the proposed tax rate increase of 46 cents per $100 of assessed valuation to finance $65 million in bonds for proposed improvements.
School board members and administration officials voiced their observations at their meeting last week. Reasons were stated and probably all of what was said entered into the defeat of the bonds either in small or large measures.
But in the end, with economic conditions being what they are, it was that 46-cent property tax hike that was on the minds of voters. Residents of the district are conservative and many object to the fact that more than 70 percent of the property taxes they pay now go to the public school district.
Another fact that galls many voters are property assessments. Real estate values have dropped — everybody knows that — yet that decrease is not reflected in assessments. There is too much state control over property assessments. The state mandates guidelines that county assessors must follow, and they could face legal action (it rarely happens) if they don’t abide by the rules, which aren’t realistic.
It was a pocketbook issue.
The committee promoting passage did a good job of getting the word out, but not enough voters bought into it. The sad thing is that many residents of the district did not vote and just don’t seem interested. What these nonvoters don’t realize is that eventually their inaction at the polls could cause their property values to decrease even more if the public school system is subpar.
One of the problems the Washington district has that other districts don’t have is a large geographical area that still has a come-together-as-one complex. Serving parts of three counties is a barrier to having a close-knit bonding.
We remember well when the state was pushing consolidation back in the 1950s and 1960s. It wasn’t so much that the Washington board wanted to expand its boundaries. Rather it was smaller districts wanting to join the Washington district because
of its solid reputation. The Washington board finally said it couldn’t take any more territory and that angered some residents east of the city who wanted in the district.
Even though the outlying areas have had members on the board, that hasn’t brought about a closer relationship, or a spirit that the district needs. However, some of the outlying areas have supported every bond issue.
Since most of the residents of the district live in Washington, that’s where the voting determines whether a bond issue lives or dies.
The district needs more of a uniting spirit. We remember when the spirit was much better.
Some people compare today’s leaders in the district to years ago. A question that is heard is whether there is a lack of confidence in the leadership. That’s a fair question. But in answering it, a factor to be considered is that conditions are different today. It is a question that the board should consider. What can the administrators and board members do to instill confidence in voters that they are on the right path if that’s a problem? Do they need to be more active and visible in the community?
There is apathy. We hope it isn’t toward education in general. But we do wonder about people’s priorities these days. It also must be remembered that public schools are forced to do many things that districts didn’t have to do before because of the students who aren’t home-prepared to be educated. Why do we have ill-prepared children entering the education doors today?
Society in general isn’t what it once was.