It’s back to the drawing board for the Big Walnut Local School District Board of Education and administration following Tuesday’s defeat of the district’s $133.9 million, 8.3-mil bond issue.
District voters defeated the bond issue with 6,191 votes against, 5,271 for – roughly 54 percent to 46 percent.
The bond issue, on the ballot because district enrollment projections indicate that Big Walnut would grow from an approximately 3,400-student school district this year to 6,000 students by 2025, would have allowed the immediate construction of one new elementary building, and started the four-year process of building a 1,850-student high school.
The bond issue would also have included funds to add on to the district’s current middle school building, and also funds needed renovations to the district’s older buildings.
Board of education president Mindy Meyer said because of the bond issue defeat and the next opportunity to go back on the ballot is November of 2017, the school district will run out of room to accommodate a rapidly growing student population.
“Waiting a year to go back on the ballot, and with the amount of time that it takes to build a school building, means we’ll eventually be going to modular trailers for classroom space,” Meyer said. “Money for modulars will come out of operating funds, and that means kids and programs will suffer.”
Meyer expressed appreciation for Community For Eagle Pride Committee chair Liana Lee and the cadre of volunteers who worked on the bond issue campaign.
“Liana and her crew were phenomenal,” Meyer said. “We appreciate everything they did. They spent a lot of time on this campaign; they made a lot of sacrifices.”
Asked what’s next, Meyer said board of education members would have to discuss what they could have done differently to convince the community of the need for the bond issue at the current amount.
“Even if we cut some things out of what we planned before going back on the ballot, with increasing interest rates, rising construction costs, and spending operating funds for trailers, it will end up costing just as much,” Meyer said. “We’re going to have to sit down and put our heads together and see where we go from here.”
District superintendent Angie Pollock said the high election turnout likely worked to the district’s disadvantage.
“Typically we’ve had success during presidential elections,” Pollock said. “But this election was an anomaly. Whatever plans we come up with next, the need isn’t going to go away,” Pollock added. “Obviously, we have a lot of work to do.”
Reporter Lenny C. Lepola can be reached at 614-266-6093.