Third time no charm; Wakonda bond vote fails by slim margin again

Third time no charm; Wakonda bond vote fails by slim margin again by David Lias For weeks now, large white hand-painted signs with bold green letters have lined Wakonda's Main Street, urging voters to approve the issue of $1.8 million in bonds for a school remodeling project.

Tuesday, the majority of people who cast votes in the bond election responded to those messages positively by voting for the bond issue.

But in what has grown to be a frustrating pattern of events for the project's supporters in the Wakonda School District, the majority vote wasn't strong enough.

In Tuesday's election, the third attempt since last November to win voter approval of the school remodeling, the bond issue fell five votes short of being approved.

According to unofficial election results, 331 people, or 59.11 percent, voted for the project, and 228 voted against it. There was one unmarked counted ballot.

This third election differed very little from Wakonda's first two bond elections. In November, 59.77 percent of voters approved the project, and in January, the project's approval rating was 58.9 percent, both missing the required 60 percent by a hair.

The bond would have raised money to build an addition to the district's school building for kindergarten through sixth-grade classrooms. It also would have created a preschool and elementary school principal's office and expanded the school and community library, the weight room and an elementary special education room.

There also would have been some remodeling done to the current building, built in 1922.

The $1.8 million bond issue would have cost the owner of a $50,000 home $97.50 a year.

The Wakonda School District has a K-12 enrollment of 186 students in a community of approximately 350.

Wakonda School Board member Van Moser said Wednesday morning that he is unsure what will happen next.

"I really don't know until the board meets at its regular meeting on May 14. There are a number of options that they can look at, but what option or what they'll do, I don't know," he said.

Moser refrained from stating what he'd personally like to see happen next.

"It's a board decision that needs to be made, so I'm not really sure what direction we'll go," he said. "I'm sure we'll discuss the options and move forward."

"As far as the next step, we'll have some discussion of that at our school board meeting on Monday, and I don't know what they'll want to do," Superintendent Ron Flynn said. "We never really talked about what would happen if it would fail. We were just trying to focus on getting it passed, and we weren't able to do that."

Moser said something will have to be done with the Wakonda school building, despite the outcomes of the bond elections.

"I think there's some progress that has to be done in that structure, like safety code issues and things like that, so there probably will be some things done anyway," he said. "It probably won't be done at the magnitude, or it may be done at the magnitude of the original project. I don't know."

Moser added that it is important for the school board to keep in mind that the majority of voters want positive changes implemented at Wakonda School.

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"The majority of the voters in the district are saying they are in favor of doing something. Unfortunately, it takes a 60 percent vote to implement that," he said. "But I still feel positive about it when the vote stays the way it has each time.

"If it was the other way around, it would be a whole different story, but we still represent the majority," Moser added. "We (the school board) represent everybody in our school district, and the majority of the people in the district are saying that they are in favor of still making some improvements to the education process in the Wakonda School District, and so I think as a representative of those people, the board has some obligation to figure out some way to do that."

Flynn said the school project may be the victim of misinformation swirling throughout the district.

"I wish that we had been able to get more people at some of the public meetings that we had. I think that there are some that have been influenced by rumors and information that just aren't true," he said. "It's hard to combat that when you can't talk directly to the people."

The school board and administration has held five public meetings to discuss the project since late last year.

"The percentage of the people that are voting that have been at those meetings has been about only 10 percent. That's the part that's been frustrating to me," Flynn said.

In November and January, attempts to approve a $2.15 million bond issue each fell about 1 percent short of garnering enough votes for passage.

"After the last election (in January), I know there were some people who said if you scale it back a little bit, we could support it," Flynn said. "Well, we scaled it back a little bit, and I didn't see that the vote percentages changed at all. It didn't seem that scaling it back changed many votes."

"I've got some strong ideas of some ways that we could do some stuff, within the parameters of the statutes and the authority of the local board, but I'm only one member of that board," Moser said. "I'm sure I'm going to express my ideas, and if the majority of the board feels like they want to support it, we may do something different, but until we meet, I really don't know what we may do."

One thing is certain, no matter what the school board decides to do.

"We will be teaching classes," Moser said.

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