BARLOW - The latest proposal for new construction in the Warren Local school district was overwhelmingly rejected by voters Tuesday.
The sixth bond issue placed on the ballot since 2010 would have raised the 36 percent local share of a $10.75 million project to build a new high school on the site of the existing Barlow-Vincent Elementary School. An accompanying 5-mill permanent improvement levy would have raised $1,149,524.20 a year to fund needed repairs at the existing high school - which would have become the new Barlow-Vincent - as well as Little Hocking and Warren elementaries.
The dual issue garnered 4,504 no votes, compared to 2,848 yes votes. The numbers for each were greater than in the fall 2011 vote but the percentages - 61.3 percent against and 38.74 percent for - were nearly the same.
Photo by Evan Bevins
Warren Local Schools Superintendent Tom Gibbs, right, watches early election returns at the Washington County Courthouse Tuesday with Beverly resident Glen Miller, a supporter of the Washington County Children Services levy.
Warren Superintendent Tom Gibbs said after the votes were tallied that he did not know what the district's next step would be, but at this point he didn't foresee another building issue on the ballot. The district has an emergency levy that will be up for renewal in less than two years.
"I would have to advise the board to focus on renewing the levy we already have instead of spending more time seeking additional revenue," he said.
Warren's most recent five-year forecast shows the district in the red within two years, Gibbs said. The board and administration had hoped approval would have eased the pressure on the general fund.
Opponents of the bond issues have said the district needs to live within its means. Gibbs said they've tried to do so through numerous cuts but factors outside the district continue to affect its finances.
"Every reduction we make, there seems to be a concurrent reduction in state and federal resources that eats away at that," he said.
High school busing, which is not required by state law, was one of a series of cuts the district made in early 2011. It led at least some families to enroll students in other districts or online community schools, where funding followed them, further impacting the district's budget.
Earlier this year, the board of education unanimously approved a resolution to reinstate busing if the bond issue passed.
The busing issue was the determining factor in Little Hocking resident Jessica Reynolds' decision on the measure.
"I voted against because I believe we need it but I am not going to be bullied into a decision," said Reynolds, 24.
For the first four votes, the proposal was a $74.6 million bond issue to build three new elementary schools, a new high school and a middle school, with residents funding the 42 percent local share with a 28-year bond issue. The rate on the last issue was 8.19 mills, plus a required half-mill permanent improvement levy. It failed by just eight votes.
Last year, a different proposal sought a 5.4-mill bond issue and 0.5-mill levy for the 38 percent local share of a $53.6 million project to build three elementaries and a middle school. It was resoundingly rejected by about 1,300 votes.
Fleming resident Danielle Gilliand, 40, voted for all of those issues and this one as well.
"Our children have the absolute best teachers and staff in the Warren school district, and I believe they deserve to have buildings that are comfortable and safe to learn in," she said.
Gilliand's children attend Barlow-Vincent Elementary, where the classrooms are separated by shelves but not actual walls. Additional classroom space is provided by trailers outside the building.
At the other schools, about $7.5 million in repair needs have been identified, including roof work, boiler replacements, electrical upgrades, plumbing replacements and more.
Some of those casting ballots this time around hadn't been involved in many, or any, of those previous campaigns.
Truman Noe, 63, moved to Vincent a little more than a year ago. He voted for the fifth bond issue last year and marked "yes" for the latest proposal Tuesday.
"Schools are very important for the growth of any community, and it's the lifeline for creating jobs and any economic development," Noe said.
Little Hocking resident Rodney Stimpert, 51, recently moved back to the area and said he "didn't feel strong about" supporting the bond issue and levy, so he voted against them.
"I don't need any more taxes right now anyway, and (the schools) seem to be doing all right," he said.