Disheartening was the operative term on Wednesday for supporters of the Buckeye Valley Local School District bond issue.
The $31.25 million issue — that would have provided the funding to build two new elementary schools — was rejected by district voters in Tuesday’s general election. However, the vote was extremely close, with the issue being defeated by a mere 19 votes (3,257 against and 3,238 in favor), according to unofficial results made public by the Delaware County Board of Elections.
“To say it’s disheartening is an understatement,” said Andrew Miller, superintendent of Buckeye Valley Local. “But we’ll pick up the pieces and if it ends up holding true, we’ll talk with the board (of education) and see what our next steps might be.”
According to the Board of Elections website, absentee ballots that were postmarked by Nov. 2 but have not yet reached the office are not included in the unofficial results. Those ballots, and any other provisional ballots cast, will be counted and included in the official canvass, which the Delaware County Board of Elections will begin on Nov. 17, according to Director Josh Pedaline.
Pedaline noted that of the 1,051 provisional ballots that were returned to the Board of Elections on Tuesday night, 145 came from areas associated with the Buckeye Valley School District. However, he also said that until the ballots are processed, it won’t be known if the individuals who returned them actually live in precincts that would have been eligible to vote on the bond issue, or if they even voted on the issue at all.
While the school district is based in Delaware County, parts of it spill over into neighboring Marion, Morrow and Union counties. Voters in Delaware County supported the bond issue with 3,060 voting in favor of it and 2,969 opposing it.
However, voters in Marion, Morrow and Union counties rejected the issue. The heaviest blow was struck in Morrow County where the issue failed by 99 votes, 276-177. Turnout was sparse in both Marion and Union counties. The issue lost by a 7-1 count in Marion and 5-0 in Union.
Pedaline said official results must be submitted to the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office by Nov. 24. Marion, Morrow and Union counties must provide results of the bond issue election in their counties to Delaware County for the official count. Depending on the final outcome, an automatic recount could be required, Pedaline said.
“We won’t know that until the count is finished,” he said.
If the result remains unchanged after the official count is completed, the district will be stuck in the same situation it is now — with aging buildings that continue to consume money that is required for the constant maintenance of the facilities at Ashley and Ostrander. Miller said district officials projected that the new buildings would have saved the district about $88,000 annually in operating costs.
“We’ll just continue with the inefficient operating systems that we have, more expensive utilities and the inability to provide air-conditioning and climate-controlled buildings for the kids,” Miller stated. “In a nutshell, we’ll continue to spend money on things that I wish we didn’t have to spend money on, that could be used better to serve our kids in the classroom. The buildings aren’t getting any younger, so that figure ($88,000) could certainly go up. We won’t be able to save that money because we’ll still be operating with outdated and inefficient systems in the two buildings.”
Miller praised the Excellence for Buckeye Valley committee, which conducted the campaign from start to finish.
“I think the bond committee did a great job getting out there, going door to door and getting the message out,” he said. “I felt really good about the process we went through to arrive at this issue. I felt really good about the issue itself, that it had some strong merits. And I felt really good about the volunteers from Excellence for Buckeye Valley that went out there and pushed the issue. They did a great job. It was a very organized effort.”
Joe Veneman, a spokesman for the Excellence for Buckeye Valley committee, said he hopes that any future campaign will be embraced and actively joined by more parents, especially those with children in the elementary schools.
“At some point, we need more influence from the younger families,” he said. “I think somehow we need to get them involved. Most of us in Excellence for Buckeye Valley are parents of older children, because we’ve been involved in the school district. We need to reach out to them.”
Veneman noted that in 2008, the district placed an $18.5 million bond issue on the ballot in March that failed by 11 votes, then went back to voters in November with a similar issue in the amount of $16 million to fund renovations at Buckeye Valley High School. The second try passed by 1,068 votes. He said he hopes that result can be repeated.
Andrew Carter can be reached at 740-413-0902 and on Twitter @AndrewCarterDG.