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St. Helens School Board analyzes failed school bond

The St. Helens School Board on Monday briefly reviewed data related to the November failure of the facilities bond, setting the stage for another go at a bond package in the May primary.

The election data poses significant questions, however.

Board Chair Terri Burns said that while the November vote appeared considerably closer than the November 2006 attempt, the numbers reflect no significant increase in voter support for the bond.

'We really weren't any closer to passing,' Burns said.

The district scaled the bond package back, from $41.2 million in 2006 to $26 million, in the 2007 election on the hope of increasing voter support. The difference accounts for dropping a 600-student elementary school and some maintenance items.

Last November, the bond failed by a narrow margin of 230 votes. While the margin has closed between the 2006 and 2007 election, there are several factors, including voter turnout in the 2007 double-majority election, that skew the reporting numbers.

Burns said the close loss last November represents a misleading outlook, and that her analysis shows there was no real increase in support.

'We're basically where we were in November 2006, even by cutting the bond in half,' she said.

A telephone survey conducted in 2007 showed that most respondents felt the district aimed too high in 2006, prompting the district to reshape the bond package. Now, bond supporters are left shaking their heads about how to appeal to the varied voter reasons for voting down the bond.

Board member Bill Crist speculated on several reasons for the bond failure, including broader economic worries and a marketing platform that fails to reach out to undecided voters.

'I don't think we got their attention,' Crist said. 'We got the same attention from the same folks we got before.'

A special board workshop meeting is planned for Tuesday, Jan. 22, at the district administration building to figure out where to take the bond.