USD 378 looks ahead following defeat of $12.3 M bond vote

By Rose Schneider

Though the Riley schools’ $12.3 million bond proposal for was defeated by a vote of 764 to 358 on Tuesday, Supt. Brad Starnes said he is confident the district will start to see some necessary changes to its facilities within the next year.

“We will prioritize plans and knock off individual projects, like security and safety, from the outlay money raised every year,” Starnes said.

Capital outlay money rewards the district with between $200,000 and $250,000 annually for necessities like updates and repairs. Starnes said limiting access points and installing cameras will remain a top priority - even without the $12.3 million bond. Some of the school buildings’ roofs also need to be repaired because they’re coming up on the 20-year mark.

“The insurance company won’t insure a worn-out roof that isn’t up to date,” Starnes said. “The fact that it won’t insure a worn-out roof means some of our choices are dictated by those requirements.”

The next possible plan for repairs will be stretched out over a 5- to 10-year period with the crucial changes being taken care of “strategically with a set amount of money,” However, Starnes pointed out that sometimes the plan changes and is dictated by what comes up. He said one can’t always anticipate what needs to be done or how much money it will cost.

Though some projects have been laid out for the coming year, many unknowns remain for the district, especially in light of the turnover on USD 378 Board of Education.

Three newly elected board members will take their positions at the July 1 meeting. And the board’s president, Steve Reed, has said he plans to step down as well.

Forty percent of the district’s registered voters —1,133 people — voted in the special election Tuesday. Raydon Robel, a resident and former school board member, said he thinks the way the people voted speaks for itself.

“Everyone had the opportunity to go to the polls and vote their conscience, and they voted against it,” Robel said.

Robel, who voiced his opposition to the bond proposal in a letter to The Mercury, believes that just because the community didn’t want this bond doesn’t mean they don’t want any subsequent bonds for the school district.

“The community was against this bond because the majority of the emphasis was on the high school - not the grade school - where the majority of challenges lie,” Robel said. “I think they just want the board to take another look at it and see where changes can be made.”

Robel estimates within the next few years the majority of repairs will be made, but he said there are “pros and cons to everything that comes up.” He said since this vote required special permission from the state, the earliest time USD 378 could hold another special election is January unless the district tacks the bond onto a regular election ballot.

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts,” Starnes said, quoting Winston Churchill. “It was disappointing because a lot of people invested a lot of their time and energy in this over the last four years to prioritize what they thought was best for the district.”

Starnes, Reed and Robel all said they believe the new board of education members will bring a great deal of new insight — and possibly progress — to any potential bond projects moving forward.

The official vote count will be released Monday.

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