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Sunnyside voters reject $3.95 million athletic bond

It's back to the drawing board for Sunnyside School District administrators as voters rejected a $3.95 million bond measure yesterday for high school athletic field improvements.

The measure failed with 52 percent voting no (1,171 votes) and 48 percent voting to approve the bond (1,069).

If approved the bond would have provided funds for items such as new bleachers-replacing current ones that are 45-years-old and considered a liability-and a new synthetic turf athletic field.

The school district contended the improvements, which would have included new field lighting and lockers, would attract State athletic contests.

If approved, the measure would have raised property taxes by 28ยข per thousand-dollar of assessed valuation. The owner of a home valued at $100,000, for example, would have an additional $28 in property taxes each year. And that, supporters of the bond contended, would have still left Sunnyside with the second lowest tax assessment of any school district in the county.

Voters saw things differently, leaving the district to begin again.

"I'm disappointed in the outcome but we still have to go forward," said Superintendent Dr. Rick Cole. "We need to now go back to the (school) board and address the concerns about the grandstand (bleachers)"

Cole said one of the district's first steps following the bond measure's defeat will be to reconvene an athletic bond committee to come up with alternatives.

The district does have $1 million that it was going to add to funds from the proposed bond measure. The cost to replace the bleachers, which is seen as a top priority, is estimated at about $1 million dollars. But Cole said it was too soon to tell if the answer to yesterday's no vote would be to simply put that money into the bleachers.

"We have to go back to our committee and reconvene the group and start talking again," he said.

Cole and Athletic Director Bill Daley both noted that athletic bond measures traditionally face difficulty in finding voter approval.

Even so, the district still must find a way to address the needs of its athletic programs, said Daley.

"We have a bleacher liability," he said. "The bottom line is that we have to be responsible in how we do things."

Both pointed out that the Sunnyside School District community split nearly down the middle on the vote.

Cole offered that if about 150 votes had gone the other way in approving the measure there would have been enough support to pass the bond with a 60 percent super majority.

He said he'd like to see a community forum be held to gather input as the district reviews options for a plan B to meet its needs in the athletic department.

"Let's get the community together and see if we can find something they'll support," Cole said.

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