by Larry Austin
Passage of two capital project propositions by voters Tuesday indicates renewed trust in the school district, Board of Education members said.
The capital project, totaling $51 million, passed by wide margins. A $46.8 million proposal passed with 1,610 yes votes and 292 no votes, an 84.6 percent approval. Proposition 2, a $4.6 million project for work on the Grand Island High School auditorium and athletic fields, passed 1,361 to 516, or 72.5 percent in favor.
"I think it's a resounding demonstration that the board put together a good package, two good propositions, and I think we're starting to build back the trust that the community expects of the board," said School Board President David Goris, after the vote totals were announced in the high school Viking Mall by Superintendent of Schools Robert Christmann.
Goris said that the projects will "set the stage for what we do in the educational environment for years to come. I'm very thankful for that."
He also credited the communication involved in the informational campaign leading up to the vote, and the support of community members in project committees.
Tak Nobumoto, board vice president, said the BOE'S 5-1 vote for Proposition 1 and 2-1 approval for Proposition 2, which reverse the results from two years ago when a different capital project failed by a wide margin, is "just a testament to the hard work that went into it, the inclusion of a lot of different people. We hid nothing. We did our best to get the word out, and obviously it was out."
He noted the district's savings of money in a capital reserve, which allowed the $46.8 million Proposition 1 to come with no increased impact on the local tax burden made a difference in the vote result, but that even the passage of Proposition 2, which asks for a 2/10s of 1 percent tax increase, passed easily as well.
The margin of passage "says there's support out there, there's trust" in the board, Nobumoto said.
"The trust is definitely there. And we're not going to throw it out the window, we're just going to keep building on that."
Board member Glenn Bobeck said he was happy with the strong turnout and support from residents.
"It's good to see that the community actively got involved in the process and voted for a result that's going to be positive for the district and the kids in the long term," Bobeck said.
"It's much needed work, both Prop. 1 and Prop. 2," said board member Paul Krull. "I'm looking forward to a shovel going into the ground."
Christmann said he was pleased for the students, staff and the entire community.
"Their positive vote will make a significant difference in our health and safety and in our academic progress. We truly are deeply appreciative of how the community came together to support these two propositions," he said, adding that the proposals came after involving a "huge commitment from residents" in ad hoc committees, starting fresh after the failed proposition two years earlier.
"You couldn't have a wider and deeper involvement in the decision-making," Christmann said of resident input.
Perhaps the happiest person at the vote result announcement was Athletic Director Jon Roth, who said he anticipated a positive vote and "was expecting it to be a huge success because of the number of people who supported it over the last six weeks."
Roth spoke about the project at nearly every fall sports banquet, Vikings coaches praised the project to their players, as did community youth sports leaders such as Rom Figler and Brett Banker, Roth said.
"It was a total team effort from top on down. Board of Ed., superintendent, coaches, teachers, my family and friends and community members, youth soccer and Junior Viking football. It was a huge statement that we need to upgrade our five schools for our students' academic environment and athletic facilities, which impacts all our programs and physical education. Thanks to all that supported," Roth said.
Proposition 2 includes a turf field, eight-lane track and lights at Masters Field, the athletic field named after Grand Island football and baseball coach Gene Masters.
"The best part about it: it's not just a football field. It's going to service our girls and boys lacrosse, girls and boys soccer, track, cross country, you name it," Roth said. "I'm very excited about it. We worked very hard, and I just want to thank all my coaching staff for really getting out there and beating the bushes."
"Something Gene Masters always wanted was to see Friday Night Lights football, and I think it's going to be a reality on turf."