Putting pen to paper and signing a check for $40,000. The thought may almost make your squirm. But it’s decisions like that our counties, cities and school districts make every year. And in making those decisions, they have to weigh costs. When is one thing worth more than another? From 9th Street to school bonds, over the last couple of years, Central Nebraska has seen several special elections. But those elections don’t come without a price tag. And if the money is going to ballots and polling places– there’s something else that’s not getting it. So, we reached out to your city’s leaders, and to the people who run your children’s schools, to find out. “We live in an interesting community right now because I think the question of, what is the extent that we have voter input, is being questioned,” said Hastings Public Schools Superintendent Craig Kautz. But for schools, voter input isn’t a question– it’s a law.
In 2014, both Hastings and Grand Island voted to approve multimillion dollar school bond issues. And, while the outcome may be the same, they took very different routes to get there. “Bond elections are more complicated than people may think,” said Kautz. Kautz says they took everything into consideration. But choosing to put the question on the primary election ballot, rather than a special election, came down to dollars and cents. “We’re always looking for ways to save money. We think that was a very cheap election in comparison to the cost of other elections,” he added.
Just how cheap? $617.40– and that includes the School Board election. So, Adams County Election Commissioner Ramona Thomas says the estimate for just the bond election is closer to a mere 300 bucks. The same year, Grand Island Public Schools opted to forgo taking advantage of those set election days and hold a special election– even if it meant a bigger bill. “First and foremost it was about engagement. Second, of course, I think any organization wants to be successful,” said Virgil Harden, Grand Island Public Schools Director of Business.
Not only did GIPS want the spotlight on their $70 million bond issue, not wanting to compete with other issues on the ballot, but Harden says they also had a strict timeline. “You might imagine that when school starts, parents tend to have good feelings about school and so its no surprise that elections that are held in September, August time-frame have a higher success rate,” he said.
And just how hefty of a check did GIPS have to write? It was to the tune of $41,872.28. That’s nearly 140 times the cost of Hastings’s election cost. So where’d that big chunk of change come from? Not from the books in your kids’ classrooms, or the food at the lunch-line.
Full Article: SPECIAL REPORT: The Cost of Democracy.