Bartlesville Voters To Decide On $19M School Bond

Monday, August 22nd 2016, 10:44 pm
By: News On 6

Oklahomans head to the polls in the morning to decide which candidates will face off in November for a handful of open seats in the state legislature.

Bixby voters will also decide whether to approve four separate public safety improvements.

And, there are school bonds on the ballot in Bartlesville as well as in Adair, Muskogee, and Nowata counties.

The Bartlesville bond issue is for $19 million worth of improvements for the school district. District leaders say it's their last resort to save teacher jobs slashed by state budget cuts.

The $19.4 million would be spread out over five years, district leaders say that's about an extra dime a day for the average family.

Monday was meet-the-teacher night in Bartlesville, and 8th-grade U.S. History teacher Josh Bigby is giddy about the school year.

"I love the Industrial Revolution. It's one of my favorites. So I get really into it, and I got projects and stuff we'll do," Bigby said.

The district wants to keep more teachers like Bigby; that's the whole point of the bond issue, says Superintendent Chuck McCauley.

"First and foremost, we're trying to save teaching positions," he said.

State budget cuts forced them to start the school year with 39 fewer employees - 21 of them teachers.

But, if taxpayers can foot the bill for things like maintenance and transportation, the district can spend more of its budget on teachers.

McCauley said, "Unless we have a change in funding, all signs indicate toward next year, we're going to have to make more drastic cuts, which is really going to impact class sizes. They're going to be worse, and we're also going to have to be looking at programs, unfortunately."

A big chunk of the $19 million, about a quarter of it, would go to maintenance; about $2 million would be spent on replacing 15 decades-old school buses.

But bond opposers like Joel Rabin, who's also running for city council, wonders when this will end - as Bartlesville passed a bond issue in 2012 and 2013.

"I know they're in need. How much they're in dire need, I would have to see the financials. Have you done the financial forecasting and things like that," Rabin said.

The district insists there is a need because the student body keeps growing.

"When you look at an increase in student enrollment and a decrease in revenue, that's a bad combination," McCauley said.

Polls open at 7 a.m. Tuesday.

You can find more information about the bond here.