Voters in the Washington School District took a few steps forward and several backward in Tuesday’s election, approving a no tax hike bond proposal, and rejecting a tax increase for bonds for a new middle school. Both needed a 57 percent majority for passage.
The no tax increase bonds in the amount of $9 million received solid support, while the other issue, a $40 million bond issue with a 25-cent property tax hike, received just over a 50 percent favorable vote.
It is clear that this was chiefly a tax increase issue with voters. The proposed 25-cent increase to a total levy of $4.08 per $100 assessed valuation was too much for voters to accept. The challenge is what to do next.
The district and the committee that promoted passage of both issues did an outstanding job in bringing the message to voters. The needs were explained in detail. Many endorsements were given. Yet the voters said no. No doubt some of the negative votes came from parents of students in district schools. Others did not vote.
We all know these are not the best of economic times throughout the country, yet some school districts have had success with bond issues and meeting needs. The needs are obvious in the Washington district. All you have to do is look at some of the buildings inside and outside. And to have to continue to use some of the temporary structures for classrooms is a safety issue. It is at the elementary and middle school levels where the needs are the greatest.
Some people have said for some time that the Washington district has lagged behind other nearby districts in its physical plant. We are behind other districts. This situation has a trickle-down effect on the entire community. It eventually reaches all property values, and can hinder residential, commercial and industrial growth if allowed to persist.
The voters have spoken. We have to live with their decision. A lingering question: What is it going to take to spark a resurgence of interest in the welfare of the district, and to envigorate a spirit of sacrifice for the children in the district?