Sunnyside, Toppenish superintendents to ease up on bond issues

Failing measures prompt time for reflection

— After tough defeats at the polls Tuesday, April 24, in construction bond elections, the Toppenish and Sunnyside school superintendents are cooling their heels to think a little.

John Cerna of Toppenish and Kevin McKay of Sunnyside know there is more than one way skin this cat, and they need to determine what way that is.

They don’t expect to speak to their respective school boards about another special election until later in May, maybe even June.

The Toppenish School District was looking to improve safety and security of students.

That included renovation and remodeling Toppenish Middle School.

It also wanted to construct additional learning space to relieve overcrowding.

The Sunnyside School Board was planning to use the $18 million bond to build additional classroom space, a performing arts center and modernize athletic facilities at about $24.5 million total.

The state would have put up the remaining $6.5 million, McKay said previously.

It would have cost taxpayers 85 cents per $100,000 of assessed property valuation per year for 20 years, had the bond been approved.

That’s about the lowest the taxpayers would have to ante up.

“I don’t think it will ever be that good again,” McKay said.

Although they were disappointed, neither McKay nor Cerna was angered.

“That’s the will of the voters, and I accept it,” McKay said.

“People are already paying lots of taxes, and I understand that,” Cerna said. “I don’t like paying more taxes either.”

But neither superintendent is giving up.

The space needs didn’t go away with the election losses.

“We are still stuck with the same problems,” McKay said, noting enrollment is increasing. “If you want better schools, you have to pay more taxes,” Cerna said.

Both men said they need to do a better job of presenting the problems and solutions. They need to convince more voters to approve.

Total votes in Sunnyside were fewer than 2,000; 6,000 eligible voters stayed on the sidelines.

Toppenish had fewer than 1,000 total votes. More than 3,000 eligible residents did not vote.

McKay and Cerna both said they need to discover why there is so much apathy.

Both superintendents said there is opportunity to turn things around among the large group that did not vote.

As of Friday, Sunnyside’s bond had received 55.2 percent support from voters. Toppenish had 55.3 percent.

State law requires a 60 percent super-majority to pass.

A few late-arriving ballots have yet to be counted, but election officials said the number isn’t enough to change the outcomes.


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