W.S. voters pass school referendum
In a May 15 election, 509-J School District voters approved a $26.7 million bond levy, which included $10.7 million for its half of a new school in Warm Springs.
Urbana Ross, chief operating officer for the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, reported a total vote count of 1,088, with 816 people voting for the new school, and 240 voting against it.
"There were 32 `spoiled votes' that couldn't be counted, but still went toward the one-third of eligible voters needed to pass the referendum," Ross said. A turnout of 1,022 was needed to reach the one-third mark.
"All the Tribal Council voted in favor of it, and it has been adopted and certified that it was approved by the membership," Ross said.
The referendum failed to get a one-third turnout on its first attempt in May, which Ross attributed to misconceptions.
"The tribal vote was held at the same time as the county vote, and people thought their county vote was all that was needed. They were not informed that they had to vote twice," Ross said.
This time, she said, the tribes did a better job of informing voters, and letting them know they had to go to the polls.
To get the vote out, she said Krispy Kreme doughnuts were handed out to voters in the morning, the 509-J School District sponsored a sandwich and watermelon lunch, and a barbecue dinner was held at 4 p.m., for those voting.
"Voters spread the word to other voters," Ross said, which helped bring more people into the Community Center to cast ballots.
"We're excited and will start a very aggressive schedule to get the school doors open by September 2014," Ross said, noting the tribes will be working on plans jointly with the 509-J District.
The new 80,000-square-foot school will be built on land donated by the tribes on Chukar Road, behind the Museum at Warm Springs. It will ease crowding, do away with the need to use modular classrooms, and get the playground away from its current location next to U.S. Highway 26.
It will also expand from a K-5 to a K-8 school, allowing more tribal students to attend school in their own community, rather than being bused to Madras.
509-J Board Chairman Laurie Danzuka said she helped at the polls Tuesday. "There was a steady flow of voters all day long and most of the comments were very positive," she said.
During the previous vote, there were rumors that funding for a new school would come from tribal per capita payments or pension payments. "That was not true, there was misinformation," she said.
Danzuka said Tribal Council is still considering two options to fund its half of the school: refinancing the casino, or obtaining a USDA loan guarantee to get a bank loan.
Of the approval for a new, expanded school, Danzuka said, "It will definitely have a positive effect on learning, pride in the school, and will open up doors to students that have been closed for a long time."
"I'm looking forward to having my children in that school," she said, of her kids who are ages 12, 9, and 5.