A Cimarron-Ensign USD 102 bond issue meant to fund improvements to the district’s stadium and the construction of new athletic facilities failed at the polls Tuesday by a 576-300 vote, leaving the sizable projects with no firm path forward.
“We knew that it would be tight,” Mike Schartz, Cimarron Junior-Senior High School assistant principal and activities director, said about the election. “The public meetings, the proposal the KIDS (Keep Improving District Schools) committee had, were very good meetings and both sides attended. So, I thought the information was presented very well as far as the needs. And, you know, the vote turned out differently.”
For weeks, USD 102 held town hall meetings about the $4,395,000, 20-year general obligation bond proposal, which would pay for improvements to the stadium’s parking lot, bleachers, press box and concession stand and a two-story addition to CJSHS athletic facilities, including a new wrestling gym and weight room. Both projects were projected to be completed by the end of 2020.
The district hoped to cover annual bond payments with money local wind farms voluntarily donate to the school district every year, which are expected to continue at least 10 more years. If the wind farms stopped sending donations before the end of the bond’s 20-year lifespan, district officials had said they would have had to raise taxes by 5.63 mills to cover the payments.
Now that the bond has failed, the future of the projects is unclear, said Schartz and USD 102 Board of Education member Brandon White. The board will review the election results and determine a response at an upcoming board meeting, White said. The board’s next meeting is Monday.
White said the student and campus needs the projects would answer, including overflowing weight classes, overlapping after-school winter sports practices and the stadium being out of compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, are still present and he is open to revisiting the projects in some way.
“It's kind of a balance,” White said. “I don’t know what the process is next, but our goal as a board is to listen to the community, as well as take care of the administration and students in the district.”
Dori Hilker-Ridge, an organizer of the community campaign We Can Do Better, which opposed the bond, said she also thought the race would be closer than it turned out. As far as she heard, community issues with the bond varied from person to person. Some were frustrated the projects would directly benefit only athletics, others were concerned about the possibility the projects would result in higher taxes, and others thought the projects were too large or expensive.
Most people she knew seemed to agree that the stadium was in need of improvements, though possibly not as extensive as the proposed projects. If board members plan on revisiting the projects, she said, she hopes they get input from the community ahead of time, possibly via meetings, surveys and a community-inclusive committee, to see what they wanted and would support.
“We think the voters spoke pretty clearly, and we hope the board will go back to the drawing board, maybe get a bit more input … and can get something together that’s a little more popular...” Hilker-Ridge said. “I think if they can get some more buy-in on the front end, they could probably get something put together that would pass.”
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