A proposed bond issue for a second high school in Lawrence can't go to a public vote in September, as tentatively planned by the school board, because state law says such an election would be too close to the November general election.
Patty Jaimes, county clerk, said today that, according to law, a bond election can't be held within 90 days of another election. It could, however, be held at the same time as the Nov. 7 general election.
District officials have estimated that the bond issue needed to build the new high school and make improvements at Lawrence High School will be between $20 million and $25 million.
After learning this morning that a September election would be impossible, two school board members pondered the idea of holding the bond election with the general election.
Mary Lou Wright, board president, expressed some initial doubts about switching the bond vote to November, but then said it might not be a bad idea.
"We'll have to live with it and look at the bright side," she said.
Maggie Carttar, board vice president, said her initial reaction was that the 90-day rule put the school board in a difficult position, but that combining the bond vote with the general election might be a money-saving move.
BOARD MEMBERS had discussed having the bond election this spring, but at their meeting Monday they voted to seek approval from the county clerk for an election in late September.
Board members decided that a later bond election probably would be in the district's and local taxpayers' best interests because it would give people time to assess the impact of higher property taxes on their household budgets.
Board members also had said it would be ideal to have the bond election be the only issue on the ballot.
"I think our general consensus was that we wanted to be alone (on the ballot) and didn't want to tie this in with something else," said Ms. Carttar.
But, she said, the board also wouldn't want to have the bond election in the summer, because it would be difficult to rally school-oriented groups and civic groups to campaign in support of the bond issue.
"I'm not sure how it would be, to go with the general election," said Ms. Carttar. "I would want to know if this is going to be one of a million questions, or if it will be just the bond issue and the candidates for the various offices."
THERE ALSO is the expense consideration, said Carttar, who said it would be prudent and could also help the district in the eyes of the voters, if the bond issue were held with the general election.
Mrs. Jaimes said it cost $18,084 to put the local teacher salary referendum before local voters in the spring of 1988.
Ms. Carttar said she believes the board could make the situation positive.
"We decided to wait until the fall so that people would have time to see the tax situation, and we would also not want to incur the costs of an additional election if we didn't have to. . . . We could turn this into a positive thing," she said.
Ms. Wright noted that the higher turnout usually tied to a general election could work in the district's favor. Because people automatically turn out for larger elections, she said, the district could then concentrate on presenting the proposal to the public without spending so much time and effort encouraging people to vote.
BOTH MS. Wright and Ms. Carttar noted that the school bond election shouldn't be much later than November. If it passes, construction would have to begin as soon as possible so the second high school could be open in time to handle the secondary overcrowding that already is occurring.
If the bond issue passes, the new school will be built on 50 acres of land just west of the intersection of 15th Street and Wakarusa Drive.