Jackson's challenge

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

In one respect, last week's Jackson School District bond election was a numbers game. When the bond issue was defeated by a narrow margin during last November's general election, turnout was expected to be high because of the state and national contests on the ballot. With a lower turnout anticipated for the April school and city elections, the goal of supporters of the bond issue was to get as many of November's yes voters as possible back to the polls.

Last week, slightly more than 3,000 of November's no voters apparently did not bother to vote the second time around. But neither did more than 4,100 yes voters.

Unless those who favor modernized and expanded schools are willing to make their wishes known at the ballot box, Jackson is likely to face defeat again if the issue is placed on next April's ballot, the earliest date under state law.

Part of the challenge for school districts everywhere is the four-sevenths (52.14 percent) majority needed for passage. More than 55 percent of the Jackson district's voters favored the bond issue in both elections. But state law has always set a higher bar for issues that involve tax increases and debt. Other bond issues require an even higher two-thirds majority (66.7 percent) for passage.

More than anything, though, school districts and municipalities are finding they must overcome a general no-new-taxes mindset among voters.

For the Kelly School District at Benton, Mo., eight elections were needed before enough voters said yes to a bond issue. This time the measure received a strong 69 percent approval.

The Kelly district was able to muster its yes voters and get them to the polls. That's Jackson's challenge too.

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