McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

July 23, 2011

In our view: It's time to be heard on school bond


Staff report

McALESTER — It looks as though McAlester’s school district will attempt another bond measure — funded by property taxes — to repair leaking roofs and broken stadium seats, and vacate old buildings, among other things. The new plan is much less ambitious than the district’s first attempt, which voters soundly rejected in January.

This time, school administrators promise, they are listening to all the taxpayers.

School officials seemed genuinely surprised when their $34 million bond issue — actually two measures — went down in flames at the Jan. 11 polls. After all, they had spent thousands of hours coming up with a plan they felt would make everyone happy: School administrators and teachers, parents, athletes. And the cost — even a 30 percent property tax increase — seemed modest given the district says it has no bond indebtedness, something few quality school districts in the state can boast.

Still, both measures failed by more than 60 percent. The cost, voters said, was too dear, particularly the $12 million asked for an event center, and $4.2 million for football field turf, among other athletics improvements.

It seems that the school district is listening, cutting the event center’s cost by nearly half and moving it to a second phase. The first phase, though, which is to be voted first, will address the most dire issues to keep the district’s 3,000 students safe.

Nothing is set in stone, and it appears the school district wants to hear from taxpayers before finalizing a proposal for another ballot later this year. They’ve asked the public to participate in an online survey (www.mcalester.k12.ok.us/district) and in a dialogue in person during a Monday forum. (The poll will also be available at the forum.)

The survey asks participants to rank 16 projects — from parking to roofs to an events center — to help prioritize what needs to be done first. Participants are also being asked to tell the school district how much of a tax burden they feel would be bearable.

It is clear that something must be done. Roofs are leaking — some classrooms have more buckets than pupils when it storms — stadium seats are falling in, and other infrastructure is crumbling. Now is the time to give your input on how those problems should be addressed.

The date is Monday. The time is 7 p.m. The location is the Lucy F. Smith Student Center at McAlester High School on Buffalo Drive.

We encourage you to make yourself heard.