MARION SCHOOL BOARD ASKING ‘WHAT NEXT’
That’s the $11.7 million question facing the Marion School Board following last week’s general bond election that fell short of the 60% super majority required for passage.
In a special election held Tuesday, Jan. 16 in which the school district was asking patrons to approve $6.5 million in new tax revenue to help pay for the first two phases of a three-phase Master Plan, voters responded with 199 in favor (51.15%) and 188 opposed (48.83%) to the measure.
In order for the bond to pass, the number of votes in support of the measure needed to be 233. Voter turnout was 37%.
“I was hoping for it to go a little better for us than it did,” said Scott Tieszen, president of the Marion School Board. “None of us wanted to raise property taxes, but we look at this as an investment in our students’ education, their future and the community. And this would secure us a welcoming and safe environment for the next 50 years. That’s all we were looking for.”
As presented, the bond issue would have paid for more than half of a two-phase renovation that would have dramatically altered the layout and traffic flow through the cobbled-together school buildings. It would have included the demolition of the oldest structure, new construction that would have allowed for a new entrance, and a remodel of other existing space.
While the Marion School Board met in special session the morning after the election to canvass the votes, it won’t hold a formal discussion about what steps to take next until its regular meeting next month. The school board is scheduled to meet Monday, Feb. 12 at 7 p.m. inside the band room.
“What are our options?” he said. “The majority of people were in favor of this, just not enough of the majority. Do we try this again? Can we get 50 or 100 more people to show up?”
Tieszen, who noted he was pleased with last week’s voter turnout, said the board will need to balance doing what it feels is right for the students and possibly upsetting those who were in opposition of the bond.
“We have to decide if it is worth trying to get this through again because the kids are worth it or is it going to divide this community?” he said. “There have been differences up to this point, but it’s been fairly civil. We don’t want that to change.”
Brian Brosnahan, who is in his first year as superintendent in Marion, said that while the decision how to move forward ultimately sits with the board, he will recommend school leadership look at what went well and what didn’t.
“We have more that are in favor of it than aren’t,” he said. “I think as the school board canvassed the election there were individuals identified who maybe should have voted who didn’t. I think if the board decides to move forward with another election we will need to do some strategic reach outs.”
Brosnahan and Tieszen both said school officials also need to do a better job clarifying misconceptions and misinformation.
Regardless of how this turns out, he said, “We’re not closing. We’ve got great staff, great administration, and great students. We’ve worked hard to promote more pride in our district and our community.”
And while there has been some confusion in terms of identity — Marion is in three separate sports cooperates named Bearcats, Phoenix and Rebels — Tieszen said that those who go to school in Marion are Bears.
“The community is really rallying around that message,” he said.
Brosnahan shares the concern about misinformation despite clear reporting in both The Courier and the Turner County New Era, the Parker-based weekly.
“Both papers did a nice job of communicating things effectively and getting the information out there, but there were still some misconceptions about what the final project was going to look like,” he said. “Anybody who has questions about the bond or the school in general should call me or call a board member. At least do their due diligence in making sure the information they have is correct.”
Brosnahan also noted that roughly 70 people attended the two special meetings held late last year, and more than twice that number voted against the bond.
“So a lot of people were there voting for it or against it potentially without all the information,” he said.
And communication between the board and the public — and vice-versa — will continue to be critical.
“At the meeting in February there is going to be some discussion, and if individuals have productive and proactive things they would like to communicate in support or not in support, they should come to the public input part of the meeting and express that,” he said. “That helps give us further direction on where we should go.
And Brosnahan and Tieszen both welcome and encourage input for those who oppose the bond measure.
“We welcome individuals who are on the ‘no’ side and would like to hear why they said ‘no,’” said Brosnahan.
Said Tieszen: “I would just like to say thank you to everybody who came out to vote, because we get to hear from you. A no vote is just as important as a yes vote because that’s information we wouldn’t otherwise have.”
Scott Tieszen; “I thought the voter turnout was great; I was hoping for it to go better than it did for us. This is an investmentinto their education, their fugrue and the community. The school, despite the misconceptions out there, we’re not closing. This would just secure us, a safe environment. That’s all we were looking for. None of us wanted to raise property taxes.”
“What are our options. The majority of the popel were in favor of this. Just not enough of the majority. Weather? Misinforaiton the issue/ Don’t give up . Try this again. These kids are worth it.”
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