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School district recalls for bond election in February

Superintendent of Mustang Public Schools, Sean McDaniel, talks about holding another bond election. The school board voted on Monday to hold the $7 million bond election on Tuesday, Feb. 11 of 2014. (Staff photo by Jon Watje)

By Jon Watje
Managing Editor

After a failed bond issue in November, the Mustang Public School District will attempt another bond election on Feb. 11. The school board voted on Monday night to call for the special election.

"We can recall an election 60 days after a previous election as long as it is substantially different than the previous one," McDaniel said. "We had a bond issue that failed on November 12, so we can go ahead and call for another one right away as long as it meets those requirements."

McDaniel said a capital improvements committee made several changes to the previous $4,050,000 bond election and made a recommendation for a new, $7 million bond issue.

"The reason why we can go up to $7 million is because of the length of the issue," he said. "With the last bond issue, that issue would of been paid off in four years. Instead, we made this one a five year issue. As far as our millage, we are still aiming at keep a 28 millage rate or lower, so this would not hamper any future bond elections."

The Feb. 11 bond election will include:

-$1.6 million for purchasing and installing technology infrastructure, equipment and software for classrooms and schools, including the purchase of smartboards, 3-D printers, tablets, laptops, and iPads and for purchasing for district-wide use for the Mustang Public Schools STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) programs.

-$1.4 million would be for the construction of a new ROTC training and instructional center.

-$1.225 million would be for a new softball/baseball training facility for use by the MHS softball and baseball teams located on the high school campus.

-$1 million would be allocated to provide storm shelter construction and renovations at the Mustang Education Center and high school campuses.

-$800,000 to acquire land for the construction of future schools in the district.

-$375,000 for equipment for district-wide arts programs.

-$300,000 for the construction of a new Ag barn.

-$200,000 for new playground equipment at Mustang and Lakehoma elementary schools.

-$100,000 for upgrading interior lighting at Trails Elementary and Mustang North Middle School.

Board members discussed a popular topic of discussion about the last bond election...the baseball facilities.

Travis Helling, president of the Mustang Diamond Club, spoke to the board at the meeting, asking them to keep the new baseball practice facility on the bond election.

"Right now we have a 1,100 square-foot indoor practice facility that only has two cages or lanes for hitting or pitching," Helling said. "Yukon has a 11,000 square-foot facility with 21 lanes, Putnam City has a 18,000 square-foot facility and Enid has a 10,000 square-foot facility. Mustang is the fifth largest 6A school district in the state, but we are in the bottom 20 percent of 6A programs when it comes to indoor facilities."

Helling said there are 75 students in baseball from freshmen up to seniors.

"That number can easily jump to 100 depending on the season, and we can’t fit hardly any of them into our current facility," he said.

The school board also debated on when to hold the election. McDaniel gave the board several dates to choose from, as early as Feb. 11 to as late as Aug. 26 of next year.

Board member Jim Davis said he did not like the idea of an August bond election.

"I’m not crazy about that, just when kids are starting school I’m not sure parents will be up for an election," Davis said. "I think we need to hold it earlier."

Board member Jeff Landrith said he wanted to have the election in March.

"If we have it in February, we could have bad weather that would keep people from getting out and voting and Valentine’s Day is also in February," Landrith said. "Plus, March would give us more time in getting the word out."

Landrith initially made a motion to hold the election in March, which was not seconded by any of the board members, causing the motion to die. Landrith then made a motion to hold the election on Feb. 11, which was approved by all the board members.

Board members also discussed the failure of the Nov. 12 bond election, where the voter turnout was extremely low.

"Of all the registered voters in the district, only four percent voted," McDaniel said. "Historically, if you look at the numbers in the past, Mustang has usually supported bond issues. We aren’t trying to change people’s minds, we are just trying to get more people to vote. Many of the voters who voted ‘Yes’ in previous successful bond issues did not vote in this last one, so our goal is to inform them about it to get them to the polls."

McDaniel said a new strategy will be put into place to inform voters about the upcoming bond issue.

"We did a horrible job informing the public about the last bond issue," he said. "But with this election, I honestly believe we can do a better job in getting the information out to the public. I overlooked many things in the last election. This time we are planning to make personal phone calls to voters and do everything from visiting with different businesses to making banners."

Board member Chad Fulton said he agreed in holding the bond election as soon as possible.

"I think we need to get this back to the voters as soon as possible," Fulton said.

"We really didn’t get the ‘Yes’ voters out there last time. In fact, a lot of people told me that they forgot to vote."

Davis said he believed misinformation also was a factor in the last election.

"I think there were a lot of misconceptions with the last bond issue," he said. "There were people saying that it would raise your taxes by $30 a month, when in fact it was actually probably $30 a year. Things like that. I just think we didn’t get all the info out there that people needed. We need to provide people with hard numbers and be as transparent as possible."

Board member Amanda Strassle said she would like to see students get more involved with the bond issue.

"I would like the students to put a message together," Strassle said.

"I think with one of the major bond issues in the past, we had students that did this and I think it really helped. Many people have not seen the Ag barn or the baseball facility. We need to provide a picture of these facilities with the students sharing the information with it. We need an information package that really hits home."

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