Exactly what caused the downfall of the proposed $24.4 million bond issue in USD 248 was the question on everyone's lips Wednesday.

Exactly what caused the downfall of the proposed $24.4 million bond issue in USD 248 was the question on everyone's lips Wednesday.
"Apparently, the voters thought it was an excessive amount, or they didn't like the project, or there wasn't something in it for them," said Gary Snawder, superintendent of schools for the district. "When you have a bond issue, you draw a line in the sand.
"Not many people are going to stand and straddle that line. They're going to take one side or the other."
With a total of 1,768 ballots cast, voters by a more than 2-to-1 margin soundly defeated the first proposition on the ballot. The unofficial tallies counted 1,257 votes against and 490 votes in favor of proposition one. The second portion of the ballot was voted down by more than a 6-to-1 margin, 1,507 against to 242 in favor.
Proposition one called for general obligation bonds totaling $22 million and would have built new classrooms at R.V. Haderlein, Girard Middle School and Girard High School, added students lockers and a commons area, provided funding for a new football/track facility and financed construction of a student/community center with additional gymnasium space, locker rooms, weight room and meeting rooms.
Proposition two, totaling an additional $2.4 million, would have added an indoor swimming pool to the project.
It all boiled down to economics. People said they are looking closer at their finances and the idea of spending more than $24 million on anything concerned them, despite the fact the bond issue would have been paid back over a period of 20 years.
"I think it was exceptionally bad timing," said board of education member David Goble. "Who could have predicted, when we started looking at this, the stock market was going to tank and the economy was going to go the way it did?"
Greg Vahrenberg, a financial advisor and managing director for Piper Jaffray in Leawood, agreed. Vahrenberg put together the financial plans for the bond issue.
"Through the eyes of taxpayers and voters, there's so much negative news these days, it causes people to think maybe it really isn't a good time to consider a bond issue," Vahrenberg said. "That can have an impact on the attitudes of the voters."
But, Vahrenberg said he and others in his business have a different view. Even with the current economic situation, a multi-million dollar construction project in a community can stimulate the local economy, through jobs and the consequent spending by the people who would have built the school.
"What may appear as a negative on the surface is really a positive," he said. "In a slowing economy, what better time is there to put people to work in a community? Construction generates revenue."
Harold Bryan, executive director of the Girard Area Chamber of Commerce, agreed. While he said he wasn't entirely surprised the bond issue failed, he thought the vote would have been closer.
"People tend to look at things the wrong way," Bryan said. "When you're involved in economic development, you tend to see opportunities, rather than demise and increased taxes."
The potential for economic stimulation is one of the talking points that Chuck Schmidt, superintendent in the Independence School District, is using. The Independence district is preparing for a similar, but larger, bond issue, set to go to the voters Tuesday.
"We've been working on this for a year-and-a-half and, when we started, things weren't bad" in the economy, Schmidt said. "Since that time, the economy has gone down the tubes and it's scaring people."
Schmidt has been hearing some naysayers, he said, concerned about tax increases that would come with the bond issue. Those same concerns were vocalized in Girard, through everything from newspaper advertising to road-side signs, in the days leading up to Tuesday's election.
Jeff Southard was listed in an advertisement in the Jan. 21 Girard Press as treasurer of a group calling itself concerned taxpayers of USD 248. While he said Wednesday the concerned taxpayers wasn't an organized group, as such, it was vocal in its opposition to the bond issue.
"I think they had to much (sic) amenities in the bond issue," Southard said. "I think a lot of people think things need to be done and I agree.
"But they had some amenities in there that just weren't justified — the pool and the football field. The way the state's economy is, I don't think we've hit the low yet, and it has a lot of people worried."
The USD 248 Board of Education didn't make any contingency plans in case the bond issue failed, Snawder said. But, looking to the future, he and the rest of the board agree there are still things that need to be done in the district facilities to keep the district competitive and to provide the best educational options it can for its students.
"We still want to do what's best for our kids and our teachers," Snawder said. "Now, we'll focus on the next step and head on down the road.
"We know we have to move forward. We can't just hang on to what we've got. If you're not moving forward, you're going to move backwards."