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Voters say "no" to bigger school... Kenmare Public School students are ready to board buses Friday afternoon at the end of the school week. On Tuesday voters turned down a bond issue that would have added several classrooms, a gymnasium and vo-ag space. Similar issues passed in Lewis & Clark and Minot districts.
By Marvin Baker
A second bond issue in five months that would have allowed for Kenmare School District expansion, has failed again.
On Tuesday voters turned down a request for a $7.5 million bond issue that was earmarked for a new gymnasium, five classrooms and a new vo-ag building.
Fifty-seven percent of voters said yes to the bond issue but it needed 60 percent to pass. A total of 243 patrons voted in favor and 186, or 43 percent voted no.
In November 2013, the Kenmare School Board asked voters to consider a $14 million bond issue that eventually failed by an 11 percent margin.
At that time the board went back to the table, made numerous changes to create a better scale of economy, but came up with a plan that would have satisfied the need of a growing student population.
Kenmare School Board President Jan Kostad called the vote discouraging, not only because similar bond issues passed in Minot and Lewis & Clark, but because there are legitimate needs, especially in the elementary grades.
“I don’t really know why. Maybe it was the type of voter turnout,” Kostad said. “I guess the mindset is no more taxes. I’m not sure how to change that mindset.”
Kostad said in most cases, the annual additional taxation on a property would have been equivalent to a night out for dinner or a tank of gas.
Since the voters said no in November, Kostad said it has been difficult to understand what they were thinking.
Public meetings were held but he said few patrons showed up and there were few, if any written comments turned in to himself or school board members.
Kostad wasn’t only discouraged, but surprised that cutting the bond issue in half didn’t make more of a difference in the yes vote.
“The school will go on, but this puts a timeline on any construction three years out now,” Kostad said. “So once again, it’s back to the drawing board.”
For the time being, business will be conducted as usual.
However, creative scheduling has been done to keep the school day on track, but according to Kostad, as time goes on, it becomes a greater deterrent to the children.
“The kids are going to be getting up at 5 a.m. for practices and it might discourage some of them from competing,” he said. “And we continue to have recess issues.”
With a projected subtle growth to continue, especially in the elementary grades, the current situation is expected to intensify.
But Kostad, an accountant, said the time was really now to get the best bang for the buck since Kenmare was earmarked to receive low-interest loan guarantees of up to $10 million.
“We always have the assumption of increased interest rates,” Kostad said. “So what we may eventually end up with is an inferior product.”
Superintendent Duane Mueller was equally disappointed and the said the school board will need to get into some serious discussions about how to proceed with the business of operating a public school.
“I’m not sure what changes will have to make now. It’s a big question,” Mueller said. “I knew it was going to be a close vote, but I’m still surprised.”
Election results were expected to be canvassed at Monday’s (April 14) school board meeting. See separate article.
“It’s just one of those things,” Mueller said. “We’re going to have to sit down and talk about it and figure this thing out...”