August 27, 2014 10:44:59 AM
When voters in the Lowndes County School District rejected a $47 million bond proposal for major additions and renovations Tuesday, the initial reaction in some quarters was in despair.
While a small majority of voters approved what could have amounted to a self-imposed tax increase by a small margin (52 percent), the measure fell well short of the 60-percent vote required for approval.
The plan included a $14 million career-tech center that would be used by all three campuses and a $26 million high school at New Hope and the implementation of a master plan at the New Hope campus. The remainder of the bond issue would have been used to build a new field house and track at both the Caledonia and New Hope campuses, a new weight room at West Lowndes High School and help fund a program that would have provided laptops or tablet computers to every student.
It could be argued that New Hope would have seen the greatest benefit from the bond issue. Voters in that precinct turned out in greater numbers than any other. According to unofficial results 507 of the 659 (77 percent) votes cast at the New Hope precinct were in favor of the issue.
Considering the needs addressed by the proposal and that the tax increase would likely be a short-term inconvenience - taxes are likely to go down significantly as major industries in the county convert from in-lieu fees to much higher ad valorem taxes - the outcome is disheartening.
When The Dispatch editorial board interviewed Lowndes County Superintendent Lynn Wright, district attorney Jeff Smith and project architect Joey Henderson earlier this month, Wright said there was no "Plan B" for funding the project.
The district does have options, though.
Now, to complete the desired projects, the district can "pay as you go" with additional revenue expected to come from county industries over the next few years or raise the millage rate. Both options mean many parts of the project will be delayed for years to come.
There is also the matter of which facilities will be addressed first, which could result in some contentious debate among school board members.
The failed bond issue would have allowed the completion of all projects by 2016 and would have most facilities in good shape for the coming decades. Now, it's back to the drawing board.