Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

Community News

August 19, 2012

ECP school issue draws debate

Pauls Valley, Oklahoma — One Elmore City area resident says there is opposition out there to an upcoming school bond issue, while the top administrator believes the facts speak for themselves.

Voicing his concerns about the school issue going before Elmore City-Pernell school voters in a few days is Duwane Cassell.

At the same time Donnie Darrow, the ECP school superintendent, said he has confidence the voters in the school district will have a clear understanding of what this issue is all about when election day rolls around on Aug. 28.

On the ballot is a $250,000 bond issue stretched out over four years that if supported by at least 60 percent will go toward helping the ECP school district get some new buses.

One of Cassell’s top concerns is what he calls the issue’s impact on property taxes.

“I’m a 73-year resident of Elmore City, and I oppose this bond issue,” Cassell said during a recent visit with the PV Democrat.

“I don’t like it because we have the money to buy buses and it does have a tax increase because it extends the bond further into the future,” he said.

Darrow disagrees pointing out the current tax levels will stay put and not go up.

“How can you be against a bond issue that doesn’t cost taxpayers and is for the safety of the kids,” Darrow said.

“It’s not a tax increase. I guess you can call it a tax increase if you want to, but I don’t see it that way,” the superintendent said.

“Taxes won’t go up. They will continue to remain the same.”

Cassell and four other longtime friends have formed an organized committee that are now lobbying in opposition of the bond issue.

The group believes the ECP school district has the carryover funding available to buy buses without a bond issue. They also don’t think the current bus fleet is in bad shape or that 72-passenger buses are even needed for the regular bus routes.

“We want this bond and all the school’s bonds to expire,” Cassell said. “We feel they can buy a new bus every year without a bond.

“We also oppose that they have no specific plan for the buses; are they going to get new buses now or in a year or used buses. That hasn’t been made clear,” he said.

“If we’re going to pass a bond we want to know exactly what we’re going to do with it.”

Darrow said the facts show these views of the bond issue are just not accurate.

Two or three decades ago the superintendent said it wasn’t the norm for school districts to turn toward bond issues to pay for things like new buses.

That’s changed because of less state aid to districts and tighter school budgets, he said.

“We have to come up with creative ways to purchase school buses.”

Those ways don’t include dipping into a carryover of around $540,000, which Darrow said is to help the district plan for the future.

He added the carryover is even more important with the district receiving about $200,000 less in state funding than last year

“As a school district we need to be progressive and always plan ahead to improve the facilities,” Darrow said.

Darrow also says it’s not a good idea to allow all the bond issues to expire. That, he said, would eventually result in higher taxes for real.

“The goal of the school board and the administration is to get the bonding program up there and with proper planning address the needs without raising taxes.”

As for a plan for the bond issue funding if it passes by at least 60 percent, Darrow said the school board does have a good idea of what needs to be done.

“If we get the $250,000 all at once and spend it all at once the three buses would deteriorate at the same time,” he said.

Instead, they’re looking at spreading out the purchase times for the three buses and are considering the possibility of buying a “good used bus.”

“We want to get as much to address our transportation needs without increasing taxes. That’s our plan. We want to maximize the $250,000 for as much as we can get.”

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