February 14, 2013 in Washington Voices

Glenewinkel: Bond lacked parent support

East Valley superintendent says district will likely do more to involve community in future campaigns
By The Spokesman-Review
 
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East Valley School District faces the aftermath of repeated failure as voters rejected a $65 million bond Tuesday that would have renovated schools and built an athletic facility and performing arts center.

This was the district’s fifth attempt at passing a bond measure, but 63 percent of voters, based on early vote counts, said no.

Superintendent John Glenewinkel said they saw more voter turnout than in past years, but the bond clearly lacked parent support.

“If we can’t get the parents to support us, it’s kind of difficult to make the case that the general public would support that issue,” Glenewinkel said.

The district could file for the next special election in April, but the school board has to make that decision, possibly at a future special meeting, Glenewinkel said.

If the district has another go at a bond effort, they’ll re-evaluate the addition of the athletic facility and performing arts center, he said.

They would also consider a more active campaign, Glenewinkel said.

They didn’t do enough to engage the community, he admitted. If they try again, they would host more community meetings and explain the benefits of a well-maintained school for real estate value and education, he said.

“It’s just something we have to make a priority of,” Glenewinkel said. “We need to do a better job – other than music events or athletic events.”

Despite the lack of community engagement, Glenewinkel said today’s economy is also a factor.

“People are making tough choices,” Glenewinkel said. “I think there are some folks out there that won’t vote for any tax increases.”

A series of fliers mailed last week by the Citizens for Responsible Taxation urged voters to reject the bond because it would cost voters an additional $34 million with interest. The group, funded partially by a cash contribution from Elvin D. Alton, according to the Public Disclosure Commission, opposed the bond and in the past, has opposed other bonds and levies in Spokane County.

The district is also experiencing a budget shortfall that will require a $1.5 million loan from the Spokane County Treasurer’s Office.

The loan won’t fund bond items, but it’s necessary, Glenewinkel said, because the district is running short on cash in between increasingly sparse cash disbursements from the State.

“This year with lower revenues and higher costs we came in significantly below,” Glenewinkel said. “Now we find ourselves borrowing money to get through the year.”

Although the district’s school board unanimously approved the resolution Tuesday night to borrow the cash, some members wonder if there’s a better way to bridge the budget gap.

“This isn’t evil, but this isn’t something we should bank on every year,” board member Mike Harris said.

This is the second loan requested during Glenewinkel’s administration. They’ll earn tax revenues in April that will be used to pay back the loan or before May 6 with an interest rate of 0.5 percent. The investment agreement with the County starts Feb. 26.

The district would like to find other options to avoid a short fall like creating a debt or capital budget fund, but the district lacks the resources, Glenewinkel said at Tuesday’s meeting.

He’d also like to see a cash reserve of about $1.3 million to $1.8 million, but money in the bank is not money for school children, he added.

“We’re such a large district and our buildings are so crappy we have to have that reserve,” Glenewinkel said.


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