The lagging economy and disagreements over funding priorities were the main reasons voters rejected the Blaine school district’s recent $32 million bond initiative, according to survey results.
School board members, district officials and members of the public met on Monday, June 20, to review the district’s bond survey results and discuss how best to move forward with another bond initiative.
The $32 million bond, which would have paid for a new high school building and other school improvements, failed by 0.9 percent in the April 26 election.
No concrete agreement was reached on when or how to ask voters for another bond initiative, but consensus was that upgrades to the school buildings need to happen sooner rather than later. Suggestions included going out with a roughly $2 million bond in February, alongside the district’s renewal of its four-year maintenance and operations levy, or waiting a few years for the economy to improve. The maintenance and operations levy is one of the district’s main funding sources.
Superintendent Ron Spanjer said 87 people completed the bond survey, which the district posted on its website. While 87 is less than 1 percent of those who voted in the bond election, Spanjer said the survey respondents did offer a glimpse into voters’ concerns about the bond.
The survey contained four questions with a choice of answers and a section where respondents could write in comments. When asked why they thought the bond failed, about 30 out of 87 respondents gave the general state of the economy as the reason while 25 respondents said they had concerns with one or more items included as part of the initiative.
When asked what items should stay on the bond if the district sends it to voters again, close to 70 respondents said they want the $2 million to buy property for an eventual school in Birch Bay removed from any future bond initiative.
“Most people I have spoken with gave [the Birch Bay property] as the reason they voted no,” one commenter wrote. “If we don’t have the [population] now, they can’t see purchasing it. We need to take care of what we have now and not worry about what ‘might’ happen later.”
Birch Bay steering committee co-chair Doralee Booth said she would like to have seen more notice about the survey in Birch Bay. She felt the results were skewed against Birch Bay because many people in the community did not know about the survey.
Distributing announcements or flyers in Birch Bay would have helped get the word out effectively, Booth explained. While methods differed slightly, most meeting attendees agreed that district officials should work harder at reaching out to Birch Bay.
“Long range planning is important to our community,” Booth said. “It’s important to us that [the school district] knows we’re there.”
Spanjer expressed caution in creating artificial lines between communities. While Blaine and Birch Bay are different, they are still part of the same school district. Spanjer said he has always seen tremendously cohesive support for the district from the communities as a whole.