February Bond Issue is a Bad Idea

November 22, 2005 at 3:14pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

The Lincoln Board of Education wants voters to decide in February whether to fund the construction of four new school buildings and the renovation of many others. I disagree. A February special election is a bad idea.

The Board’s decision is based, primarily, on financial concerns. The sooner the bond issue passes, the sooner construction can begin and, ultimately, the cheaper the project will be. I appreciate that the Board wants to proceed as inexpensively as possible, and I trust that they believe this move is in the best interests of the school district and its students.

But.

The special election is too soon. The Board is rushing, and the public will pick up on that. Public support for LPS is fairly strong right now, but that support should not be taken for granted. Remember how a mere decade ago public confidence in the School Board was so low? How several bond issues failed because the voters were unhappy with the Board? There is no free money for schools from this electorate. If the voters are scared, or uncertain, or if they feel the least bit unfairly pressured, they will revolt. They will vote no.

I agree with the items the Board wants to fund. I am inclined to support more funding for school infrastructure improvements rather than less, and I’m no fan of greater government spending. I think Lincolnites, as a whole, recognize the need to spruce up our school buildings. But that recognition isn’t enough.

You know who votes at February special elections? Old people. Retirees. People who don’t have school-age kids. People who tend to vote against government spending, not for it. People who resent their tax dollars funding a single-issue special election in February. Parents of school-age children don’t vote in special elections b

ecause it’s not worth the hassle. It’s too difficult to break out of the routine to go to the voting booth, fill in one little bubble, and then try to resume the daily routine. If the School Board goes through with this, they’d better pray for snow and ice to keep the old folks away from the polls.

The School Board’s argument that it’s more financially responsible to rush the vote than to wait for the May primary is off target. That’s not to say the bond issue is doomed to fail. My crystal ball is still foggy on that point. But public opinion is mixed on this topic. Unless the Board is able to put together one heckuva marketing campaign in the short time between now and February, I think the undecideds will remain undecided at the time of the vote. That may work out well for the Board, since few of the undecideds will bother to go to the polls at all. But among those who do, a no vote is more likely than a yes vote.

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foxspit November 23, 2005 at 6:09pm

Excellent position on this subject. For a recent example of how not to handle an election, look at the City’s failed bond issue to finance street repairs.

The school board must make a serious effort to educate voters and a February special election does not give them enough time to do that.

Schools are overcrowded in Lincoln and voters will appreciate that but they need to trust that the school board is going about this the right way.  The board needs to spend more time building its case before having the election.

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