The Sidney Sun-Telegraph - Serving proudly since 1873 as the beautiful Nebraska Panhandle's first newspaper

Voters reject school bond by narrow margin

Board promises to review “options” concerning aging facilities

 


Sidney's school bond was voted down by a narrow margin of 105 votes on Tuesday. The final results were 1139 votes for the bond and 1244 against.

The bond would have financed new K-4 school, consolidating three of the system's current schools, the oldest of which was originally constructed in 1929. The school board cited difficulty with installing new technology in the older buildings, the newer of which were built in the 1950s, as one of the reasons students needed a new structure.

"I think it was good to have an election," said Sidney schools superintendent Jay Ehler. "It gave us the opportunity to hear concerns. We will now have to look at our options and address the things that voters want in Sidney."

The bond was set at nearly $16 million and would raise property taxes by around $125 per year for every $100,000 worth of property, according to Ehler.

Although the schools felt that borrowing money for a new school at the moment would be beneficial to everyone involved, due to low interest rates, the voters of Cheyenne County did not agree.

Those interest rates are expected to rise so that a $16 million building in 2014 might cost $20 million in the coming years, Ehler said.

"At some point in the next few years, a school has to be a priority for Sidney," Ehler said.

The older buildings are more costly to maintain and do not provide the same opportunities to students that a newer building would, he added.

Although the old schools aren't overcrowded population-wise, they do not have enough room for activities and programs. Many times multiple programs must share the same room. Parents also expressed concerns over driving their children to different schools every day. Attendance at the school is currently grade-based instead of location-based.

Because of the tight vote, citizens were obviously closely split on the issue. Those rallying around the "Vote Yes" campaign believe that Sidney's children need a newer school, equipped with modern technology and more space to facilitate better learning. Those opposed to the campaign think that Sidney's tax rates are already too high, and the old schools are perfectly adequate places to teach the city's youth.

Some were undecided on the issue, divided over the belief in the importance of education verses the added burden a new tax would put on those with fixed incomes.

"I think the majority of Sidney knows that a new school is something that needs to happen because of our older facilities," Ehler said.

The school board will have to consider concerns of those who voted against the bond, such as higher property taxes and the proposed location for the school when deciding how to move forward, he added. The school board set the goal last year of obtaining a new elementary in the next three to five years. The board keeps this is mind when making all major decisions as well, he commented.

“We also want to appease the taxpayers and take their views into consideration as well," Ehler said.

 

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