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Jefferson County voters reject school bond

September 23, 2000

Jefferson County voters reject school bond



By DAVE McMILLION / Staff Writer


CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - A proposed $39 million school construction bond in Jefferson County was on its way to an overwhelming defeat in a special election Saturday, meaning immediate plans for a second high school in the county are "dead," said Superintendent of Schools David W. Markoe.

With 27 of 30 precincts reporting Saturday night, 2,756 voters - or about 67 percent - rejected the bond and 1,344 voters - or about 33 percent - voted in favor of it, said Jefferson County schools spokeswoman Liz Thompson.

"I don't believe we have carried a precinct," Thompson said while awaiting final returns.

A simple majority was needed for the bond to pass.

Jefferson County Board of Education member Pete Dougherty said he saw a lot of senior citizens voting Saturday, but few young people.

Based on his observation, Dougherty said he thinks younger people did not get the message about how the bond issue would improve schools their children attend.

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Dougherty also said there was "great misinformation" spread about the construction bond.

Some county residents were saying voters did not have to support a local tax increase for school construction projects because there was state money to pay for them, which is not true, Dougherty said.

Markoe said the board will have to re-examine the issue of a second high school, but that will not happen soon.

"At this point it's dead. And the other sad part is there won't be any more renovations to Jefferson High School," Markoe said Saturday night.

Besides funding a $31.8 million high school, school officials said $6 million of the $39 million bond would have been used to pay for renovating the existing high school. That money would have been used to pay for an expansion and renovation of the library, new science labs, a new gymnasium and seats and a new sound system in the auditorium.

The state School Building Authority has designated $3.2 million for renovations to the school. That money will go toward new heating and air-conditioning systems and installation of a new fire-sprinkler system.

The bond would also have provided $1.2 million to pay for increased construction costs for a middle school about to be built adjacent to Jefferson High. That money will now have to be pulled from other school construction projects, Markoe said.

The middle school project must continue because the School Building Authority has already awarded $7.4 million for the new school, Markoe said.

Planning for the bond issue started after some Board of Education members became concerned about the 22,000 new students neighboring Loudoun County expects to receive in coming years. They said the population growth will spill into Jefferson County.

There is only one high school in the county - Jefferson High - and it is about 100 students over capacity. The 30-year-old school is showing its age with torn and broken seats in the auditorium and a sound system that doesn't work.

The outdoor track was closed to meets earlier this year because of deterioration, and at least six exterior doors on the school do not close properly, which has allowed rodents to enter the building, Jefferson County Health Department officials said.

Despite the Board of Education's plea to voters to pass the bond issue, some county residents have expressed the belief that there are better ways to meet the school system's needs. They think the Board of Education should further explore the possibility of requiring developers to donate land and buildings for schools, or reshuffle students to make more efficient use of existing classroom space.

The bond issue would have increased the annual property tax bill on a house appraised at $100,000 by about $110.

The Jefferson County Commissioners and the Board of Education will conduct a canvass of the vote count Sept. 29, said schools spokeswoman Thompson.

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